Poetry for children can also be on very serious matters, like slavery. Today’s poetry picture book collection has garnered a LOT of buzz (and some recognition as well). It also has nonfiction elements as it is based on a real document Ashley Bryan found from 1828. It is an Appraisement of an Estate’s property, listing the various equipment to be found and their worth, including the slaves that lived there. Bryan wrote poems for each of those slaves: one documenting who they were (in his imagination) and one daring to build their lost and forgotten dreams. It is a very serious and somber subject for a picture book, but beautifully done.
Ashley Bryan both wrote and illustrated “Freedom over me: Eleven slaves, their lives and dreams brought to life.” It delves into each life with great care and consideration, but it leaves the aching question unanswered of what happened to these people. In this day and age when we so easily forget what it means to be human and treat others with dignity and respect, this is a stark reminder and it is meant for children with the hopes that they will learn from the mistakes of our shared past.
I share today’s poem and one of my favorite illustrations from the book, though it captures a great deal of anger. It is the strong emotion that rivets me in both the text and the illustration.