Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Phillis's Big Test

Phillis's Big Test

Catherine Clinton
Illustrator:  Sean Qualls 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2008   ISBN: 978-0618737390

Phillis Wheatley has done the unthinkable. She has written beautiful poetry and the powers that be don't believe that she wrote her poems herself. The reason why they think this is because Phillis is young and female, and she is also a slave. Brought on a ship from Africa as a child, Phillis was bought by John Wheatley. Though her new life was hard to adjust to, Phillis was lucky because her master and his family were kind to her. They even allowed their sons to help Phillis to educate herself, and in the end Phillis became a very clever young girl who had a gift for language. Encouraged by Susanna and John Wheatley, Phillis began to write her own poetry. Proud of their servant's gift, the Wheatleys shared Phillis' verse with their friends and her writings were greatly admired.

Which is why she is now here standing in front of "eighteen of the most learned and most powerful men of Massachusetts." They are going to question her to determine if she really is the author of her poetry.

In this splendid biography the author focuses on one special moment in the life of Phillis Wheatley, America's first published African American poet. He uses this moment to have Phillis tell readers the story about how she came to be a poet, and why she is now going to be judged.

The spare folkloric style art that was created for this book perfectly suits the quiet and thought provoking text.