Cover image for Miss Crandall's school for young ladies and little misses of color : poems
Miss Crandall's school for young ladies and little misses of color : poems

Publication Information:
Honesdale, Pa. : Wordsong, 2007.
Physical Description:
47 p. : col. ill. ; 19 x 28 cm.
Reading Level:
1030 L Lexile
Poets Elizabeth Alexander and Marilyn Nelson tell the story of Prudence Crandall's school for African American girls opened in 1833.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 811.54 ALE 1 1

On Order



Two renowned poets tell the story of Prudence Crandall and her black students, who endured the cruelty of prejudice and hateful actions for the sake of their education. Miss Crandall faced legal proceedings for opening her school of African American women. But her young students knew that Miss Crandall had committed no crime. They knew that the real criminals were the rich white residents of Canterbury, Connecticut, who had poisoned the school's water and set fire to the schoolhouse. But hatred could not destroy their patience and compassion. From March of 1833 to September of 1834, when persecution forced the school to close, these African American women learned that they deserved an education. What they needed was the courage to go after it. Poets Elizabeth Alexander and Marilyn Nelson have re-created the remarkable story of Prudence Crandall's school in this ALA Notable Children's Book, using the sonnet form with innovative style. Floyd Cooper's powerful illustrations reveal the strength and vulnerability of Miss Crandall and her students.

Author Notes

Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright, and teacher, and the author of four books of poems for adults, including American Sublime , one of three finalists for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize and an ALA Notable Book of the Year. She is a professor of African American literature and culture at Yale University. Dr. Alexander lives in New Haven, Connecticut. Marilyn Nelson is a past poet laureate of the state of Connecticut and a three-time National Book Award finalist. She is the author of two award-winning books for young people, Carver: A Life in Poems and Fortune's Bones: The Manumission Requiem . She lives in East Haddam, Connecticut.

Floyd Cooper is a well-known children's book illustrator whose laurels include three Coretta Scott King Honor Awards, ten ALA Notable Book Awards, and an NAACP Image Award. He lives in Easton, Pennsylvania.

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-Twenty-four sonnets tell the story of Prudence Crandall and her efforts to educate young African-American women in Canterbury, CT, 1833-1834. The school began as a boarding school for white girls; when two black women inquired about taking classes and Crandall agreed, the townspeople withdrew their daughters. As she accepted more black students, the town became more vocal in its resistance, poisoning the school water supply, refusing to sell it supplies, and charging Miss Crandall and others with a variety of "crimes." The sonnet format is challenging but compelling. Each poem addresses an individual aspect of the story; therefore, the tone and cadence change depending upon the person speaking or the event being depicted. The introduction gives essential information, but readers with no background will still need help understanding the political, social, and historical context. Cooper's pastel mixed-media illustrations sometimes illuminate the poems, but at other times seem solely decorative. His portraits for "Tao of the Trial" and "Miss Ann Eliza Hammond" are powerfully rendered, while the nature scenes add little to the poetic experience. The art's sketchiness, however, does suit the poetic form. There are empty spaces in the pictures just as the language of the poetry leaves openness for readers' interpretation. A heartfelt, unusual presentation, this book rewards patient readers.-Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate, Middle School) In a collection of poetry about a little-known episode in African American history, poets Alexander and Nelson each pen one dozen sonnets about Miss Crandall's School. A Quaker, Prudence Crandall defied the citizens of her time by creating a school to teach African American girls in the largely white society of 1830s Canterbury, Connecticut. Miss Crandall's School's short-lived history ended in violence and in its closing in order to protect the young women. Taking on the voices of individual students, Alexander and Nelson create a portrait of a determined community of learners, the poems escalating in drama as the young women face racial hatred, from poisoned well water to their own Kristallnacht of broken glass and fire. Both poets play with the form, allowing readers to see the elasticity inherent in the exacting fourteen-line sonnet. However, what is always trenchantly clear is the power and worth of education, as when in ""Fire from the Gods"" Nelson acknowledges that ""the Ancestors [are] tickled to death to see / a child they lived toward find her mind's infinity."" Floyd Cooper's mixed-media paintings occasionally seem incongruously soft and pretty, but his spacious landscapes ground the book, and his portraits, figures often outlined in a vigorous blue pencil line, have a quiet dignity and elegance. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

Two years after Suzanne Jurmain's nonfiction chronicle, Forbidden Schoolhouse (2005), comes a glorious poetic celebration of the teacher and students at a Connecticut school that defied mid-19th-century convention to educate African-American girls. Divided into six sections, four sonnets in each, the voices of the 24 girls tell, one by one, the tale, from hope and excitement at the beginning of the enterprise to fear and defiance as forces both institutional and vigilante conspire to destroy Miss Crandall's School. Nelson's sonnets adhere to a strict form while Alexander's explore the boundaries of the form; each distills the powerful emotions inspired by the story. For example, "Fire from the Gods": "I didn't know how much I didn't know, / Like Brer Mosquito on Brer Elephant, / now I know my capacity for awe / is infinite. . . . " Cooper's soft pastel illustrations provide a muted counterpoint to the text, mixing depictions of school and students with images of the natural world in a lovely rhythm. A foreword provides a brief prose history of the school; a concluding authors' note explains their collaborative process. (Poetry. 10+) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Twenty-four clear, beautiful poems in different voices tell the stirring history of white teacher Prudence Crandall, who defied bigotry in Canterbury, Connecticut, in 1833 by setting up a school for 20 young African American women, many of them freed slaves, who dared to attend. Alexander and Nelson, both Connecticut poets, use dramatic sonnets to tell how Crandall and her students braved resistance to teach and learn. The pupils speak directly of the anguish of family parting (illiteracy means silence when you leave home ); the wonder of learning ( I didn't know how much I didn't know ); the racism, including the etymology of invective ( no one in town will sell us anything ); and the horrifying climax of Arson at Midnight, when 300 men attacked the school and closed it down. A long introduction details the historical facts, and in a final note the poets (Nelson is Connecticut's poet laureate) talk about how each has used the sonnet form. The images in their poems and in Cooper's quiet, dramatic pastel illustrations compellingly capture the haunting history. Pair this picture book for older readers with Suzanne Jurmain's The Forbidden Schoolhouse (2005) and books about the KKK.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2007 Booklist