Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When Grandmama Sings by Margaree King Mitchell

I called my grandmother Grandmama.

I rarely see that name written that way, so of course, right away I was caught by that title. I saw my grandmother, imagined what made her "sing." Looked at some of the paintings we have around the house and a couple of photos of the last few times I sat with her before she died. Since my mother's mother died long before I met her, this is the only "grandmother" I have ever had. It was a sweet relationship, one that matured as I did. Who knows: maybe she was waiting for me to grow up a little? I don't know; I just know this title sent me on a memory trip I really enjoyed.

The story itself was far different than my own stories of time with my grandmother. Belle, the young girl, goes traveling with her grandmother around the segregated South while her grandmother sings for churches and concerts. Racism was alive and well then, and the storyline addresses some of the challenges the grandmama and band experienced during their tour. The power of song outweighs the insidious judgment of the racist folks they encounter, and throughout the story, the band meets up with plenty of people willing to look beyond their own hatred.

I am not sure how close to a true story this story is, but it sure seems possible. I enjoyed the read and would definitely use it with kindergartners and primary students. The illustrations are just as engaging as the story. Score another one for our library: they led me to another terrific read in When Grandmama Sings.

***Side note: I am still in the midst of inviting Alysa to think a little differently about this blog. She is mid-way through an entry and hopefully we will see it posted in the next couple of days. Fingers crossed!!


  1. What a wonderful surprise to see my book, WHEN GRANDMAMA SINGS, profiled. I called my grandmother 'grandmama' and only thought it was something people from the South did. I'm so happy you were drawn to the book because you called your grandmother 'grandmama'.

  2. Thank you, Margaree, for your kind words!! What a lovely book this is. I loved it, "grandmama" and all. How true is the story? Did you or a family member live a part of it? I loved it!!

  3. My grandmama always encouraged me to Sing My Song, which turned out to be writing. However, my grandmama sang at home and did not get to tour. If she did she would have encountered similar situations as the ones in the story. All of my books are set in the historical South and focus on ordinary people who achieved extraordinary things for the time period in which they lived because I want students to realize that their dreams can come true regardless of the obstacles they encounter.

  4. My family has deep roots in the South. The strong women who helped create those roots continue to mold and support me,, even when they are no longer alive. My grandmother was one of those women. I make a point to search out the supportive adults in the lives of students I teach with an intent to invite them to connect their own ways of being within the books we read. I can guarantee you that I will search out more of your books and share them with the educators I work with. Like you, I seek to invite students to carry hope and possibility in spite of what and whom get in their (our?) way.