Freedom in Congo Square

In preparation for the Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, I sometimes find pleasant surprises in the books I like to read ahead that are written by the presenters. I seldom find as many as I did in Freedom in Congo Square, a historical picture book written by Carole Boston Weatherford who will be presenting at the general session on Friday, April 13th.

I will acknowledge a preconceived anxiety about the book when I first saw it mentioned when it came out a couple of years ago. I knew that my good friend Freddi Williams Evans, author of A Bus of Our Own, had done extensive research and become an expert on Congo Square. I also admit wondering if someone had edged into her territory – hence my first surprise. The first double-page spread is a foreword by Freddi, giving a history of Congo Square that will help parents and teachers who read the book to children.

The second surprise came in the colorful illustrations by R. Gregory Christie that match the mood and the culture of the weekday work and the Sunday celebrations in Congo Square.

The third surprise came in a text that enforces learning of the days of the week and counting down to Sunday with poetic descriptions of each day’s work. For instance,

Tuesdays, there were cows to feed,

Fields to plow and rows to seed.

A moment without work was rare.

Five more days to Congo Square.

Not a surprise at all, since I am familiar with Carolyn’s work, is the personal touch of history that she gives to the heroes of her story. I checked this book out so it will need to be returned to the library, but the festival book store will be remiss if they don’t carry this 2017 Charlotte Zolotow Award winner (for outstanding writing of a children’s picture book in the US). I’m already virtually standing in line to get a copy signed for a couple of grandsons.