Thursday, February 20, 2014

Book-A-Day 20: These Hands

These Hands
Written by: Margaret H. Mason
Illustrated by: Floyd Cooper

If our hands could talk, what would they say?  What memorable experiences and special moments have our hands been witness to over the course of a lifetime?  In These Hands by Margaret H. Mason, the reader gets to experience a grandfather's conversation with his young grandson about all the many things his hands have experienced with each memory beginning with the line, "Look at these hands, Joseph...Did you know these hands used to..."  He describes for his grandson how his hands used to tie triple bowline knots, throw curveballs faster than a dive-bombing honeybee, and pluck the ace of spades right out of thin air from a deck of cards.  Each mention of a memory is paired with how he can still use that skill of his hands to teach his grandson something new.  

Using the imagery of his hands, he begins sharing how "his hands were not allowed to mix the bread dough in the Wonder Bread Factory."  He describes the experience of racial prejudice and because of that how he used his hands to join with others to create change so that "now any hands can touch the bread dough, no matter their color."  The story ends with the young grandson expressing how his own hands can now do things they couldn't before such as tying his shoe, hitting a ball, or shuffling cards all because of the help of his grandfather.  My favorite line comes at the very end of the story when the grandfather says to his grandson, "Look at those hands.  Those hands can do anything.  Anything at all in this whole wide world."

This is such a tender story between grandparent and grandchild and the author captured the loving bond between them well.  She did a lovely job of bringing forth the topic of racial prejudice in a way that is understandable for young children and will spark a conversation on racial inequality that existed in our country not that long ago.  This book would serve as a wonderful mentor text to kickstart an oral history project.  Students could interview their parents or grandparents about things their "hands" have experienced in their lifetime and special talents they hold.  They could then create their own "These Hands" book with information gathered from their own family.  

Author Margaret H. Mason includes an author's note at the end of the book in which she describes how she came to write this story.  You can learn more about her here.  Celebrated illustrator Floyd Cooper has won many awards for his illustrations in various children's books.  Click here to learn more about him. 

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