Elspeth Lorraine

Book Reviews

February 17, 2023

Choosing Brave ~ How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement

Our picture book today is a bit longer than usual because the age range is 8-12 (But you guys know picture books are for everyone) and it comes in at 64 pages rather than the usual 32. This might be the first Caldecott Honor book I’ve reviewed … congratulations, Janelle! Mamie Till-Mobley was born in the South and moved with her family outside of Chicago at an early age looking for a better life. She met and married amateur boxer Louis Till and gave birth to her son Emmett. Emmett struggled at birth with severe medical issues, but Mamie took him home even after it was recommended he live in an institution. Her care and love helped Emmett become a strong and healthy teenager until he got polio. Mamie cared for him through that as well. When Emmett begged to visit family in the South, Mamie let him go but felt conflicted and scared. Emmett’s body was discovered days later having been tortured, beaten, murdered and tied to a fan sunken in the river. Even though it took over a year’s wages, Mamie had his body bright back home, opened his casket and made the world look at what happened to her son. These photos helped spark the Civil Rights movement and Mamie joined the NAACP, attending rallies and pouring love and teachings of justice into her community. 

Bits and Pieces: Can I go on and on about these illustrations? Janelle is a self taught silhouette and paper cut artist. “The illustrations for this book were created by cutting twenty-one sheets of black paper with a craft knife using 71 blades. Red, blue, and white tissue paper were added to create layers.” Her work has appeared in the Smithsonian and after I spent some time reading her artist statement and CV, I went back and enjoyed her illustrations even more understanding the medium better. 

Favorite Part: This is a very poignant book and the style of writing is very much like poetry. Each word felt important. It’s also a heavy book. Weighty both in content and in the feel of your hand. 

P.S. This book is timely and timeless and goes along perfectly with your antiracist homework. 

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