Ellens Broom

Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter

After slavery ended, Ellen’s parents’ marriage would finally be recognized by law.  Until then, no slave marriages were seen as legal.  The broom had always hung over the fireplace mantel in their home and all of the children knew the story of their parents jumping the broom and becoming man and wife.  When the family set off to make the marriage legal, all four children came along and Ellen was honored to carry the broom.  As their parents were about to be married, Ellen and her sister ran outside and decorated the plain straw broom with flowers and her mother carried the broom as a bouquet.  When her parents were married, Ellen knew that the ceremony wasn’t complete until they had once again jumped the broom together as a couple. 

This lovely picture book looks at Reconstruction, a period not often featured in picture books.  The depiction of a loving family who have survived slavery and are rejoicing in their new rights and freedoms is the center of the book.  Lyons does not shy away from showing the lingering shadows and effects of slavery, though they are shown more as memories and concerns, making them appropriate for the young audience.

Minter’s illustrations have such a delicate line that at first they do not seem to be block prints, but they are.  The bright colors and play of light and shadow make for a vivid read.  The wood grain of the walls alone are a masterpiece of line and color.

This picture book embraces family, tradition and looks to the future.  It is a gorgeous book that addresses a time in history that is often overlooked for young readers.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons.