Belle, the last mule at Gee's Bend: a Civil Rights story /

Author Ramsey, Calvin A
Language English
Somerville Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2011


In Gee's Bend, Alabama, Miz Pettway tells young Alex about the historic role her mule played in the struggle for civil rights led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Includes factual information about the community of Gee's Bend and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Subjects :

  • Mules Fiction
  • Civil Rights Movements Fiction
  • African Americans Fiction
  • King, Martin Luther, Fiction
  • Alabama Fiction History

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Best Books :

  • 100 Magnificent Children's Books, 2011 , Picture Book

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Awards, Honors & Prizes :

  • Jane Addams Children's Book Award , Younger Readers , 2012
  • Parents' Choice Award , Picture Book , 2011

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State & Provincial Reading List :

  • Arkansas Diamond Primary Book Award; None 2013
  • South Carolina Picture Book Award; None 2013

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Reading Measurement Programs:

() .

Lexile, MetaMetrics, Inc.
AD710L(Adult Directed)

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Reading Level 3.4
Interest Level K-2
Title Point Value 2

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Reviews :

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
As Alex, a contemporary African-American boy, watches a mule named Belle munching collard greens in a garden in Gee's Bend, Ala., her elderly owner tells him that the animal can eat all she wants She's earned it. Inspired by real events, Ramsey (Ruth and the Green Book) and Stroud's (The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom) story steps back in time as the woman explains why. After Martin Luther King Jr. visited the poor community in 1965 and rallied its black residents to register to vote, Belle and other mules brought wagonloads of people out to do just that after the white sheriff shut down the ferry; later Belle and another mule pulled King's casket through the streets of Atlanta during his funeral procession. The story is written as a conversation between the woman and Alex, her first-hand perspective on events epitomizing the idea of living history. Lit with bright blues suggestive of period film posters, Holyfield's (The Hallelujah Flight) thickly painted acrylic scenes successfully capture the story's modern and historical eras. An author's note provides further detail about Belle and Dr. King. Ages 5 8. (Sept.)
(Publishers Weekly)

Marilyn Courtot (Children's Literature)
In a Civil Rights story that is unique, young readers will share with Alex his introduction to what it really meant to be a black person who voted in the south during the early years of the movement. The setting is contemporary; a bench outside a store in Gee s Bend, Alabama, where Alex is watching as a mule munches on collard greens in a garden. An old woman, Miz Pettway sits next to him and from her he learns the story of how the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. came to Gee s Bend and through his preaching urged the people to register to vote. They did and when Election Day arrived, the ferry that would transport them to the mainland was suddenly closed. Undeterred they spent half a day using cars and mule driven wagons to go to the polls. When Reverend King was assassinated, he had left wishes that his wagon/hearse be drawn by mules and so the people of Gee s Bend were asked to provide two. One was Bella, the mule munching on collards in Miz Pettway s garden. There is more to the story which is quite moving and there is a reference to the Gee s Bend quilts, many of which this reviewer saw when they were on display at a museum in Washington, DC. The illustrations have interesting perspectives which emphasize points made in the text. The spread of Gee s Bend residents heading out to vote is wonderful and the women quilting supports the reference and really why Alex and his mother are in town. One of my personal favorites is the picture of the police and their attempt to stop the mules from reaching Atlanta for Reverend King s funeral. Alex and other readers should come away with a better understanding of what life was like in the 1960s and the resilience of the folks who lived in Gee s Bend. 2011, Candlewick, $15.99. Ages 6 to 10.
(PUBLISHER: Candlewick Press (Somerville Mass.:), PUBLISHED: 2011.)

Kirkus (Kirkus)
The Civil Rights Movement had many heroes, but none as unusual as Belle. It's a hot summer's day outside a small country store, and a little boy awaiting his mother is surprised to see a mule munching up a garden full of collard greens. An elderly woman invites him to sit next to her on the store bench and shares her memories of Gee's Bend in 1965, when mules carried the African-American citizens on wagons the long way 'round the river to vote. Martin Luther King, Jr. had spoken to them, and his inspiration kept them going even when white men blocked the ferry. A few years later, in April, 1968, two mules from the town pulled his coffin in Atlanta. One was Belle. This small snapshot of the protest movement pays homage to both the determination of ordinary folk and the power of Dr. King's words. Holyfield's intense acrylic paintings, in blues, yellows and browns, evoke the heat and the drama. The extraordinary quilts for which the town is famous have their place of honor, too. A solid choice for parents and teachers who are introducing the 1960s to young children. An intergenerational story filled with heart and soul. (author's note) 2011, Candlewick, 32 pp., $15.99. Category: Picture book. Ages 4 to 7. © 2011 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
(PUBLISHER: Candlewick Press (Somerville Mass.:), PUBLISHED: 2011.)

Linda Perkins (Booklist)
As Alex observes a mule devouring a garden, he is joined by a very properly dressed older woman who introduces herself as Miz Pettway and explains that the mule, Belle, is allowed to eat from her garden because of Belle s distinguished place in history. Miz Pettway recounts civil rights conflicts in their town of Gee s Bend in the 1960s and the role their mules played in pulling Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. s casket through Atlanta streets. Although not told in dialect, the smooth, flowing narration establishes a southern tone and gracefully inserts details about the poor, hardworking African American community, both past and present. Expressive, realistic acrylic paintings portray the interaction between Alex and Miz Pettway with humor and dignity. One particularly dramatic double-page spread depicts African Americans, mostly on foot and in mule-drawn carts, on their long, determined journey to vote. Striking a fine balance of pride and humility, this appealing historical side note will enhance multicultural and civil rights studies. Grades K-3
(PUBLISHER: Candlewick Press (Somerville Mass.:), PUBLISHED: 2011.)

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Publication Details:

  Publisher ISBN Notes
Somerville Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2011

Media Type: Language Material
1 v. (unpaged):
PZ7.R145 ([E])
Publishers Weekly,

Media Type:


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