Book Review: These Hands by Margaret H. Mason


These Hands by Margaret H. Mason, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Joseph’s grandfather’s hands can still do so many amazing things.  He used to be able to tie knots very quickly, now he helps Joseph learn to tie his shoes.  He can play the piano.  He can show Joseph how to do a waterfall shuffle with cards.  He could pitch a curve ball in his youth, now he can teach Joseph to hit a line drive.  But there were things his hands couldn’t do when he was younger.  His hands were forbidden to touch the bread dough in the Wonder Bread factory.  His hands could touch the broom to sweep the floor, work the line, load the trucks, but not touch the bread.  So his hands helped with the protests and organizing, and now all colors of hands can touch the bread dough.  His hands can do anything in the world.

This is a powerful book that speaks of discrimination in a very tangible way that children will clearly understand.  Mason writes from the point of view of that grandfather speaking to Joseph.  The book has a clear point of view, a ringing tone, and a wonderfully light hand.  Looking at a grandfather through his hands makes him so human yet so amazing.  This focused approach makes the book even stronger.

Cooper’s art is stellar.  The illustrations have a softness that is beautiful, all hard edges softer and rounder.  The light in the art is also particularly well done with its warmth that stays consistent even during the dark times of the story.  The art shows such strength, such vivid storytelling.

Highly recommended, this is a picture book about discrimination and civil rights that will work very well with small children.  There’s plenty to discuss here in a classroom or in a living room.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

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