Recommended for ages 6-12.
I just came across at my local library a moving new picture book that combines a little-known piece of labor history and the civil rights movement with a tender portrait of a grandfather’s close relationship with his grandson. Author Margaret Mason explains in an author’s note that during the 1950s and early 1960s, African American workers at Wonder Bread and other bakery factories were allowed to sweep the floors, load the trucks, and fix the machines—but they were not allowed to work as bread dough mixers or bread dough handlers, “because the bosses said/white people would not want to eat bread/touched by these hands.” Inspired by the stories she heard from an old friend who was a Bakers Union organizer, she wrote this inspiring tale of overcoming discrimination.
Joseph’s grandpa’s hands can still teach a young fellow how to tie his shoes, play the piano, do card tricks, or hit a line drive. But because they weren’t allowed to touch bread dough in the factory, “these hands joined with other hands,” writing petitions and demonstrating until their proud hands could finally touch the bread dough. And Joseph, too, can do lots of things with his hands, now, all by himself, including baking “a fine loaf of bread.” A refrain of “yes, you can” unites the free verse poetry of Mason’s text. The incomparable illustrator Floyd Cooper, winner of four Coretta Scott King honor awards, provides the stunning illustrations, done in his signature oil wash style with kneaded erasers, which produces an almost glowing softness to the muted earth tones of the colors.
Highly recommended for public and school libraries.