Margaret Mason’s gentle picture book These Hands features a loving grandfather who has much to teach his grandson. He uses his old and capable hands to show young Joseph how to tie his shoes, how to play the piano, to shuffle cards, and how to hit a line drive.
He also reveals a slice of history neither the boy nor many of us readers realized. “Look at these hands, Joseph. Did you know these hands were not allowed to mix the bread dough in the Wonder Bread factory?”
The tender sepia-toned oil-wash artwork by the renowned Floyd Cooper sheds a warm glow on the earth-toned images of the boy and his grandfather. The illustrations contribute to the reassuring tone and message of this simple, yet powerful picture book.
Grandpa tells Joseph how “these hands joined with other hands. And we wrote our petitions, and we carried our signs, and we raised our voices together. Now any hands can touch the bread dough, no matter their color. Yes, they can.”
The author’s note explains how, in the ’50s and early ’60s, African-American workers at the Wonder Bread, Awrey, and Tastee bakery factories were allowed to sweep and load trucks, but were not permitted to work as bread dough mixers. The author relates how she learned the history from Joe Barnett, a leader of the bakery labor union.
Don’t miss this fine inter-generational story, as it provides so many wonderful opportunities to discuss the role of families and the need to work together to battle injustice in its many forms.
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