Friday, February 7, 2014

PPBF: A Sweet Smell of Roses

TitleA Sweet Smell of Roses
Author/Illustrator: Angela Johnson/ Eric Valasquez
Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/2005
Genre/Audience: historical fiction/Ages 5-8
Themes: American History, Civil Rights Movement, March on Washington

Opening: "After a night of soft rain there is a sweet smell of roses as my sister, Minnie, and I slip past Mama's door and out of the house down Charlotte Street."

Synopsis: (from Booklist)

K-Gr. 2. History and politics get personal for young readers in this dramatic, large-size picture book about an African American child and her younger sister who steal out of the house to join the Civil Rights marchers and listen to Dr. King speak. The child's clear, first-person narrative draws on the language of the struggle ("we look farther down the road"), and Velasquez' realistic charcoal pictures, in black and white with an occasional touch of red, evoke the news footage of the time. The protestors confront the glowering police, and there are children among the racists who yell, "You are not right. Equality can't be yours." But this book is not only about segregation; it's also about the crowds of people "walking our way toward freedom," the thrilling portrait of Dr. King, and the two brave kids who cross the line. Hazel Rochman

Why I Love This Book
While African-American History is American History, setting aside the month of February to honor African-American leaders, writers, scientists, etc. is an important way to highlight achievements that have traditionally been marginalized. A Sweet Smell of Roses reaches into that space where young children are learning about the history of our country's inequality for the first time. It places them into the shoes of children who feel hope and pride and a powerful sense of positive change coming from the peaceful protests of the Civil Rights Movement. Children of all races and backgrounds need books like this to empower them and remind them of the important role they have to play. As Angela Johnson says in her Author's Note, this book is "a tribute to the … brave boys and girls who - like their adult counterparts - could not resist the scent of freedom carried aloft by the winds of change."

The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington was in 2013. Here is a list of resources, including a Civil Rights Interactive Timeline

Documentary Film (2005) - Mighty Times: The Children's March information

Nonfiction book (2012 - for middle and high school students) that delves into the role of young people in the Civil Rights Movement - We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March

Website telling the stories of those who were Kids in Birmingham 1963

Craving more Perfect Picture Books? Author Susanna Leonard Hill compiles weekly book reviews from bloggers at Visit Fridays or click the Perfect Picture Books tab at her website for a subject listing.


  1. I haven't seen this story and think it a perfect share this month. Feels like there is a lot of spirit in the two sisters. Such a great story on to help kids understand segregation and inequality.

  2. Great selection for Black History Month - Good resources for the older readers.

  3. Wow! What a great story. Good choice. I'll be checking this one out. Thanks!

  4. sounds intriguing. I'm especially intrigued with the design: black & white photos with a splash of color... definitely would remind me of the black & white newscasts on TV and newspapers.

  5. This is a great book and I'm glad you are sharing it again. I picked it up and reviewed it for PPBF back last year.

    I guess, Susanna missed it when she went to add it to the list. Thanks for choosing it again. :)

  6. I love the author's quote, Laura! And how appropriate to celebrate this month. Thanks for sharing!