From the Archives…

June 14, 2011

McKissack Book: Black Hands, White Sails

originally posted March 3, 2009

We’re going to start featuring assorted books from the Fred and Patricia McKissack collection; the first one we’re showcasing is Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African-American Whalers and is a 2000 Coretta Scott King Honor Book.

In an article with Scholastic, Pat shared, “We’ve written extensively about slavery in America, but I never realized how important free black sailors were to the Underground Railroad and to the abolitionist movement. They’ve helped in more ways than we can imagine.”

From Kirkus Reviews (on Amazon.com):
…a well-written, historical account of African-Americans who sailed on whaling ships off the East Coast between 1730 and 1880. The whaling industry provided great opportunities for free black seaman (and runaway slaves), many of whom could not find jobs elsewhere. The McKissacks note that during the “golden age” of whaling in the early 19th century, African-Americans comprised one-quarter of the crews; after the Civil War, their ranks swelled to half of all whalers… Another thread of this fascinating history is the story of the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad for the Nantucket and New Bedford whalers.

From Amazon.com:

  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0590483137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0590483131
Posted by Rebecca Morrison
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Here’s another book by Patricia McKissack we’d like to feature: The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural (illustrated by Brian Pinkney).

From Publishers Weekly: When I was growing up in the South, writes McKissack, we called the half hour just before nightfall the dark-thirty. Her nine stories and one poem, however, are far too good to be reserved for that special time when it is neither day nor night and when shapes and shadows play tricks on the mind. These short works-haunting in both senses of the word-explore aspects of the African American experience in the South, from slavery to the Underground Railroad and emancipation, from the era of Pullman cars to the desegregation of buses, from the terror of the Ku Klux Klan to ’60s activism. Here, African Americans’ historical lack of political power finds its counterbalance in a display of supernatural power: ghosts exact vengeance for lynchings; slaves use ancient magic to enforce their master’s promise of emancipation. As carefully executed as McKissack’s writings, Pinkney’s black-and-white scratchboard illustrations enhance the book’s atmosphere*, at once clearly regional in setting and otherworldly in tone. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)

Interesting note*, according to Pat, “The writer and illustrator don’t work together. The writer and editor work to make sure the text is polished. The art director chooses an illustrator whose artwork best represents the text. The artist and illustrator sometimes never meet or talk to each other. It is really a matter of trust and confidence in the publishing team that you work with.”

From Amazon.com:

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (December 3, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679883355
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679883357

We’re going to start featuring assorted books from the Fred and Patricia McKissack collection; the first one we’re showcasing is Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African-American Whalers and is a 2000 Coretta Scott King Honor Book.

In an article with Scholastic, Pat shared, “We’ve written extensively about slavery in America, but I never realized how important free black sailors were to the Underground Railroad and to the abolitionist movement. They’ve helped in more ways than we can imagine.”

From Kirkus Reviews (on Amazon.com):
…a well-written, historical account of African-Americans who sailed on whaling ships off the East Coast between 1730 and 1880. The whaling industry provided great opportunities for free black seaman (and runaway slaves), many of whom could not find jobs elsewhere. The McKissacks note that during the “golden age” of whaling in the early 19th century, African-Americans comprised one-quarter of the crews; after the Civil War, their ranks swelled to half of all whalers… Another thread of this fascinating history is the story of the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad for the Nantucket and New Bedford whalers.

From Amazon.com:

  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0590483137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0590483131