Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School

With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School

Suzanne Slade
Illustrator:  Nicole Tadgell 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Albert Whitman, 2014   ISBN: 978-0807508978

When he was a boy Booker T. Washington spent much of his time carrying heavy loads, and he did so with “a heavy heart.” Booker was a slave who had to do as he was told and who had very little control over his life. One day he was told to carry some books to the local school and for the first time in his life Booker got a glimpse of what it would be like to get an education. From that moment he longed to be able to learn how to read and write, but slaves were not allowed to do these things.

   Then, when he was nine, Booker and all the slaves in the south were finally freed, but Booker still had to work long hours so that his family could survive. Booker did not have time to go to school, and anyway the schools nearby did not allow African American students to attend. Booker begged his mother for a book, and somehow she managed to get a book for her son. Booker taught himself to read, and he wished more than anything that he could continue to learn, but this just wasn’t possible.

   While he was working in a coal mine, Booker heard that there was a school for black students somewhere in Virginia. As he worked digging out coal Booker never gave up “saving and dreaming of school,” and eventually Booker finally got to go to that school in Virginia.

   When he completed his education Booker decided that he wanted to become an educator; he wanted to “help others who shared his dream of learning.” He ended up going to Tuskegee in Alabama, where there were many young people who wanted to learn, but no school building. For a while he taught in a shed, but it soon became clear that the students were going to need a proper school building and they were going to have to build it themselves, brick by brick.

   This wonderful picture book captures the thoughtful and determined personality of Booker T. Washington, helping us to appreciate what he was like and why he built his school. At the back of the book readers can learn more about Booker and his life, and they can also read a note from the author.