Cover image for Dear Mr. Rosenwald
Dear Mr. Rosenwald
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Scholastic Press, 2006.
Physical Description:
1 v. (unpaged) : col. ill. ; 29 cm.
Reading Level:
720 L Lexile
Young Ovella rejoices as her community comes together to raise money and build a much-needed school in the 1920s, with matching funds from the president of Sears, Roebuck, and Company and support from Professor James of the Normal School.


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Renowned illustrator Gregory Christie joins the Scholastic Press list with this empowering story about an African-American community who builds their own school.

Based on the true story of the Rosenwald schools built in the rural African-American South in the 1920s, writer and poet Carol Boston Weatherford tells the lyrical story of third grader Ovella as her family and community help each other build a new, and much-prayed for, school.

Inspired by Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald, the son of an immigrant and the president of Sears, Roebuck and Co., donated millions of dollars to build schools for African-American children in the rural South. The local African-American community were required to raise matching funds, secure [cont'd]

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-5-Set in the rural South in the early 1920s, this simple, respectful story examines one community's efforts to build a new school for African-American children with seed money provided by the Julius Rosenwald Fund. Each spread features a prose poem told in the voice of a student. Readers learn about the difficult decision to accept the challenge-which the Sears Roebuck executive extended to more than 5000 communities-and then to build a decent schoolhouse for the children of sharecroppers and other poor families. Land, lumber, and labor were all donated or purchased cheap; cast-off books and furnishings from more affluent communities appeared; and within a year, the students who used to study in a drafty shack walked into the first building they could truly call their own. Christie's gouache and colored-pencil illustrations have the variegated look and stylized layout of collage art-a good complement to the child's rough-around-the-edges narration. An afterword explains Rosenwald's impact on thousands of poor black communities. An uplifting and inspiring story about the buildings that are all too frequently taken for granted.-Catherine Threadgill, Charleston County Public Library, SC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Written in verse, this moving story narrated by a 10-year-old African-American girl in 1921 in the rural South follows a community's efforts to build a desperately needed school. Weatherford (The Sound That Jazz Makes) takes her inspiration for this fictionalized account from the actual construction (from 1917 to 1932) of more than 5,000 such schools, with financial aid from Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck. As the book opens, young Ovella describes the crude building that serves as a school and the "harvest break" from lessons, during which all children must help in the fields. But hope arrives in the form of a proposal from Rosenwald. The village's preacher explains, "Before [Rosenwald's] foundation will give a cent,/ you have to raise money on your own./ White folks have to pitch in, too." Christie's (Stars in the Darkness) stylized, boldly hued gouache and colored pencil art chronicles the community's efforts (the church donates an acre of land for the school; both black and white farmers donate lumber) as they collect money "a nickel and dime at a time." Then folks pitch in to build the school, and paint and furnish it. At the school's ceremonial opening, a new teacher tells the students they are "diamonds in the rough./ I will polish you bright as stars." Finally, Ovella pens a poignant thank you letter to Mr. Rosenwald, noting, "This school/ is the first new thing I ever had/ to call my own." A heartening sliver of American history. Ages 7-10. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

Set in the rural south in the early 1920s, this terrific picture book uses evocative free verse to describe the building of a school for black children using seed money from Julius Rosenwald, the Sears catalog magnate. Weatherford explains how a Rosenwald grant worked: Local blacks had to make significant contributions (including cash and land) and whites had to provide funds, too. The daunting process is seen through the eyes of Ovella, the bright daughter of a close-knit family of poor sharecroppers. The narrative includes other voices of integrity, among them a former slave, Miss Etta May, who donates her burial money to the school so she can learn to read her Bible. Inspirational but never sentimental, Weatherford tells how the White Oak School opened with used books from the white school. Steeped in historical tradition, Christie's expressionistic, double-page spreads combine simplified figures, flat expanses of bold color and big brushstrokes in a style that conveys the emotional content of the story. The author's note highlights the importance of the Rosenwald schools in fostering black pride yet references only one--albeit, primary--source. Accomplished yet accessible, this is an important book for every library. (Picture book/nonfiction. 8-10) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

In the early 1920s, Julius Rosenwald, the president of Sears, Roebuck, was inspired by Booker T. Washington to give millions to build schools for African American children in the rural South, on condition that the local community raised money too. This picture book tells the story from the viewpoint of Ovella, 10, part of a sharecropper family, who attends a rough one-room schoolhouse when she is not picking cotton (Instead of learning long division / I'll be working in the fields ). Weatherford's short lines in clear free verse and Christie's exuberant gouache and colored-pencil illustrations show Ovella as part of a vibrant family and community, hard at work, passing the plate in church, and, finally, thrilled to be welcoming the teacher to the exciting new school (no more eight grades in one room ). The story ends with the child's dream: One day, I'll be a teacher. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2006 Booklist