Here is a recent review of my new children’s book that I found on the book’s Barnes and Noble and Amazon pages:
Destroying Stereotypes: A Review of Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House
Looking at the winners of the Caldecott and Newbery Medals, I notice that many of the winners are children’s books that deal with serious subjects in an entertaining way. Books dealing with subjects such as autism, 12 Step Programs and endangered species have won medals recently. These are books with stories that need to be told.
In Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate Whitehouse, Rickey Pittman tells a story that needs to be told. It is the story of a little known figure in history, a young African-American boy during the Civil War who was adopted by the family of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. Reading this book will spark discussion with your children about the Civil War, but the skillful writing of Rickey Pittman and beautiful illustrations of Judith Hierstein give us a perspective that is not northern or southern, but human. It’s a story about a time when the country was divided over slavery, but there was racial harmony in the last place the history books would have us suspect, in the home of the President of the Confederacy. The book begins:
“Jim Limber Davis was only five years old when his mother and father died from fever, and he was placed in the care of a relative in Richmond. Jim’s guardian was a cruel man. He often whipped him for the smallest mistakes and sent him to bed without supper.”
The story continues to tell how one day when Jefferson Davis’s family was riding through the city in a carriage, Varina Davis, Jefferson Davis’s wife, saved a young boy being beaten in the street. She rescued the child and brought him home to the live with the family in the Confederate White House.
Although the story takes place over 130 years ago, the message is quite modern, as my eight year old daughter pointed out. When asked the message of the book, she said “It’s love and friendship that matters, not skin color.” My daughter understood the message of racial harmony, something she can apply in her daily life, while also being educated on the Civil War, an important, but rarely discussed event in history. Another modern theme she pointed out was “All sorts of people can make up a family. They don’t even have to be related to have love.” which is really applicable in this era of the blended family. In Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate Whitehouse both author and illustrator push us to throw out old stereotypes about the North and the South, and realize that we are all connected.