Treemonisha, the daughter of freed slaves in the post-Civil War South, gets an education and devotes herself to lifting her people out of poverty and ignorance.
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Gr 2-6--This oversized illustrated book is based on Scott Joplin's opera of the same name. Set in September, 1884, on an abandoned plantation in a remote, wooded corner of Arkansas, the story concerns the lives and hopes of former slaves. Treemonisha, born soon after emancipation, has been well educated, thanks to her parents' hard work and her own determination. Now a young woman recently returned from college, she clashes with the local conjure man, who has been breeding ignorance and superstition among her neighbors for his own profit. The excitement increases when he kidnaps Treemonisha and threatens to throw her into a wasps' nest. Because the motivations of the characters and the flow of action in Treemonisha are easily accessible to children, it translates well into a picture book. This retelling follows the opera's action closely, sometimes using dialogue from Joplin's libretto. Watercolor illustrations depict mysterious woods in muted fall tones and make effective use of expression and gesture to portray human emotion. The pictures are notable for their strong sense of movement, recalling the opera's energetic ragtime dance numbers. An introduction offers background information, while an afterword outlines Joplin's life and recounts the history of his only surviving opera. Standing on its own as a good story, this title provides an enticing introduction to an appealing and important piece of American music.
Margaret A. Chang, North Adams State College, MA
Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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