Here is my review of The Listeners:
Illustrated by Mike Benny
Ages 6 to 10
Sleeping Bear Press, 2009, 1585364193
Ella May has to work in the cotton fields all day and it is hard work for a child. In the evenings she has another important job to do, she goes to the great house where the Master lives and she sits under one of the windows to listen. None of the white folks bother to tell the slaves what is happening on the plantation, so they send the young children to listen under the windows. Then the children report back to the adults about what they have heard.
One night Ella May and her two friends Bobby and Sue hear that the Master is going to hire a new overseer “to boss” them. This is good news because the current overseer is a cruel man. On another night Ella May’s father gets a feeling that change is in the air. He tells Ella May that “dangerous times are coming,” and he needs Ella May to listen extra carefully. The news that she brings home that evening is joyous, and everyone has high hopes that real change lies ahead of them.
In this powerful and moving book, Gloria Whelan helps her young readers to see what it was like to be slave child on a southern plantation. She also shows readers that sometimes it pays to listen to what is being said around you, because information can be empowering.
With a simple text and rich illustrations, this picture book will take readers back in time, opening a window to the past.
This is one of the titles in the excellent Tales of Young Americans series.