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Working Cotton

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  446 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
This child’s view of the long day’s work in the cotton fields, simply expressed in a poet’s resonant language, is a fresh and stirring look at migrant family life. “With its restrained poetic text and impressionist paintings, this is a picture book for older readers, too.”--Booklist
Paperback, 32 pages
Published February 15th 1997 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published September 15th 1992)
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(showing 1-30)
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With beauty and a sense of both pain and pleasure, Sherley Anne Williams describes the typical backbreaking day of a family of African American iterant migrant farm workers (who are harvesting cotton). Narrator Shelan (who is one of the children, and all of the children, except for baby Leanne, must help with the harvesting) describes how the whole family arrives before dawn and labours until nightfall to fill their sacks with cotton, with fluffy white clouds that might smell like morning and sw ...more
Alexandra "Alec"
Jul 19, 2010 Alexandra "Alec" rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
When I first saw this book, I thought it was going to be about slavery. The first pages include pictures of school buses which really threw me off. This is a great way to show this kind of culture to students who might judge this book by its cover as well. The language might be hard to understand for some young children, but this also relates back to culture. This book could be read in a lesson involving Esperanza Rising and the subject of migrant farm workers especially in California.
Oct 16, 2016 Cathleen rated it really liked it
In this beautifully crafted book, a story is told from the perspective of a young slave girl. She tells about one day in her life which begins with a cold morning driving out to the cotton fields before the sun has risen and ends after the sun has set. Because it is written from this young girl’s perspective, the dialogue reflects the time. The grammar is a little off and the language is somewhat broken because that is how she learned to speak. The young girl named Shelan describes the
Amy Foster
Nov 29, 2014 Amy Foster rated it it was amazing
Shelves: caldecott-books
A straightfoward and beautifully presented book.
Kayla Lazenby
Oct 30, 2016 Kayla Lazenby rated it it was amazing
Genre: MultiCulture
Format: Picture
Awards: Caldecott Medal

Summary: This book gives a first hand account of a little girl who works everyday side by side with her siblings and parents in a cotton field. It is eye opening that so many children work in these types of conditions with minimum education, food, minimum wage, and without a choice to do anything else. It's heart wrenching and urges the reader to stand up for those who don't have a voice.

Critique: I wasn't a fan of the illustrations. I
Oct 17, 2016 Nichole rated it really liked it
Shelves: 21-30
Genre: Historical Fiction
Awards: Caldecott Honor

This is a story about a young girl who explains her, as well as others, life in the fields through her eyes. She walks the readers through her day. She uses incorrect grammar, just as one may assume a young child to sound like when speaking. She describes the fields, the people, and the cotton itself throughout the story. The story ends with the day turning to night where the workers get to return home, only to wake up and go back to the
Nov 02, 2016 SamZ rated it really liked it
Shelves: caldecott
1993 Caldecott Honor - Favorite Illustration: Where the family first gets to the field and is spread out working together.
This is a beautiful book that tells the story of a family of migrant workers. I especially love the author's note about the necessity of fixing a broken system where children must work in the fields to help their family survive.
Nov 19, 2016 Jenny rated it really liked it
A beautiful story of a young girl who works the field, picking cotton with her family. They are migrant workers.
Sep 28, 2016 Emma rated it really liked it
Overall, this book was a good picture book that I can see myself using in my classroom or reading to my children. However, due to my frame of reference, I did notice that I had a misconception about the book. Before reading the book, I had no synopsis to read, so the only way in which I could discover what this picture book was about was to read it. So that is exactly what I did. But, this caused me to be misinformed about the book.

In my classes over the years, when discussing cotton fields we
Victoria Johnson
Sep 29, 2016 Victoria Johnson rated it liked it
Shelves: el-230
This is a good book but it may get difficult to understand for some. The way the author wrote it, he put the words in the perspective of a little girl. When children are young they do not always know how to speak grammatically correct and the author portrayed that. The illustrations are great and go good with the context but the words are sometimes hard to follow along with for younger kids.
Meredith Starr
Mar 25, 2016 Meredith Starr rated it really liked it
Copyright: 1992, I didn't realize until I did my second book that I wasn't doing books with 2011 or newer but oh well! I'll start doing that now that I've remembered!

Genre: To me, this seems like Realistic Fiction or Historical Fiction. It does not say anywhere that this is a true story, but I have no doubt that there have been many real stories and experiences like this. There were no fantastical ideas or concepts to make this unrealistic. Of course the historical bit is that African people hav
Kathy Davie
A standalone picture book that reflects Williams' early life as a child in the cotton fields in Fresno. In 1993, Working Cotton won the Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustrator Honor. And I thoroughly understand why!

My Take
There's a rhythmic quality to Williams' words as she remembers her childhood, as she pulls you in with that dreamy quality, in to Shelan's world, to show you what a day in the fields was like. The sense of competition between the sisters, that need to b
Kathy Davie
A standalone picture book that reflects Williams’ early life as a child in the cotton fields in Fresno.

In 1993, Working Cotton won the Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustrator Honor. And I thoroughly understand why!

My Take
There’s a rhythmic quality to Williams’ words as she remembers her childhood, as she pulls you in with that dreamy quality, in to Shelan’s world, to show you what a day in the fields was like. The sense of competition between the sisters, that need to be
Working Cotton is set in the days of segregation in the cotton fields of the South. It’s a story about a little girl named Shelan and her family working in the cotton fields. Black workers were bused to the cotton fields with their children and meals in tow before daylight. Everyone in the field picked cotton except the babies, with the children putting the cotton they picked in their parent’s bags. The workers and their families were bus back home right before dark. The illustrations are
Jessica Vanhemel
Feb 01, 2013 Jessica Vanhemel rated it liked it
This is a Caldecott honor book, it was published in 1992.

The first thing that I noticed about the book was the cover art, the expression on the little girls face really made me want to read this book. The illustrations really lend themselves to the story of this migrant working family and their average day. The illustrations are very impressionist, you get a hint of the picture, its not crystal clear but you can follow along. The illustrations really help tell the story, they sweep across the p
Jailah Gamble
Oct 08, 2015 Jailah Gamble rated it liked it
“Working Cotton” by Sherley Anne Williams starts off with telling the story of a little African American girl who works with her family in the cotton fields. She talks about the cold mornings and the heavy bags of cotton her daddy makes a day. This story shows the day in the life of a child that has to help her family work to make a living. The setting of this book is sometime after slavery. This picture book has a straight line plot.

What caught my eye about this book was how realistic the il
Leann Manney
Oct 08, 2015 Leann Manney rated it it was amazing
The book Working Cotton is a historical fiction picture book that is a day in the life of young negro girl that goes to work in the cotton fields with her family. This book is an easy read with short text and large pictures that take up the entire page. The illustrations are very blue and a little dull because the author wants the reader to focus on the main story and issue. Blue can signify that the main character and her family is passive. The illustrations can tell the story just by looking a ...more
Sep 29, 2011 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I lived in an area that had a largely agricultural economy for a couple of years, so I've known a number of migrant working children and I completely understand the point this book tries to make. It is fascinating how the migrant farm workers in our country are so often neglected as a source for major concern. I remember riding to school and passing school buses with people sitting and two and three people deep on the seats. At my school, the children of these families would be temporarily enrol ...more
Araceli Aispuro
Apr 30, 2014 Araceli Aispuro rated it it was amazing
Working cotton is about a young girl and her sisters, Ruise, Jesmarie, and Leanne. They go out into the cotton fields to help their mother an father pick the cotton. Their work day starts early in the morning and ends at dark. The younger kids do not get their own sacks but instead pile the cotton for the adults to pick up. The cotton is weighed when the sack is full, the workers eat their lunch and continue working. The workers all get picked up once it gets too dark to work.

Working cotton is
Apr 08, 2010 Teeny rated it it was ok

Summary: This child’s view of the long day’s work in the cotton fields, simply expressed in a poet’s resonant language, is a fresh and stirring look at migrant family life. “With its restrained poetic text and impressionist paintings, this is a picture book for older readers, too.”—Booklist

Written by : Sherley Anne Williams
Illustrated by: Carole Byard
Audience: k-2nd
Genre: general fiction
Topics: African Americans, Family, Friendship

Literary Elements: First Person Point of View, Similes, and metap
Lamar Sanders
Jul 16, 2012 Lamar Sanders rated it really liked it
Main Characters: Shelan and her family
Point of View: 1st person
Setting:Cotton field
Plot: The story follows a day in the life a young girl named Shelan whose family picks cotton for a living. Their day is covered from their arrival at the cold of dusk, through the sweltering day, till dusk. The families hardships are tempered through the innocent eyes of young Shelan.
Main Ideas:Sharecropping/Migrant Workers, Labor, Class, Family

I would cedrtainly recommend this book as it allows for the discussio
Feb 06, 2013 Tyler rated it it was amazing
Working Cotton is a story about a child's view on a hard days work in the cotton fields. The author uses language that is fitting to the story. The illustrations are eye catching and help tell the story. Shelan is the child telling the story. She is not old enough to carry her own sack, but she helps her mamma fill up hers. She says her daddy can pick cotton so fasty that you don't even see him put it in his sack. Shelan wants to be able to carry and fill up her own sack but she is too young for ...more
Thomas Frey
Oct 07, 2015 Thomas Frey rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens-books
Working Cotton is a historical picture book about a family who has to work in the cotton fields and pick cotton for a living. This book was just about one day in their life and how their daily routine usually goes. The story seems to have been told from the youngest daughters perspective and stays that way through the entire story. On most pages, the pictures went all the way to the edges of the page and there were no boarders. The pictures were also painted in such a way that almost gave you so ...more
The book, which won a 1993 Caldecott Honor award, is seen through the eyes of an African-American girl whose migrant family is working in the cotton fields. It is based off the author's own experiences as she and her family picked cotton when she was little in California, as well as a volume of poetry entitled "The Peacock Poems". The families get bused out early in the morning before the sun rises and work all day, all of them from Shelan, who is probably seven or eight, to her two older sister ...more
Oct 15, 2011 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s, 2011, picture
Shelan and her family are migrant workers who pick cotton. It's hard work and Shelan's review of the day reveals the difficulties of picking in a field all day.

Like many readers, I initially thought that this was a story about slavery. Buses at the beginning of the story reveal that this is a modern story, though it could take place anytime from the 1940s to today. (I really, really hope not today.) The story is also written in dialect, and students will need support to understand some of the w
Summary (CIP): A young black girl relates the daily events of her family's migrant life in the fields of central California.

Review: This book transports the reader to the unfamiliar world of a migrant working family. At first reading the time period and setting are hard to determine. The text is poetically written in a voice that sounds and feels authentic for this little girl in this time and place. The illustrations are beautiful, bright, and sensitive.

Horn Book liked it, "Byard's mural-like
Kevin Ryan
Told from the child's point of view of the day in the life of picking cotton all day. she talks about how her entire family is doing the same thing as well. Author puts cotton picking in a neutral sense, however, by having the family singing and dancing throughout the book while faced with the hard labor of picking cotton.

Audience: 1-3 grade
Genre: Fiction story
Topic: picking cotton, african american

The illustrations in this book are nothing short of amazing. You can almost feel and smell everyt
Feb 24, 2009 Lynne rated it liked it
In this beautifully illustrated book, author, Sherley Williams provides readers a glimpse into the daily routine for migrant field workers. Told from the perspective of a young African America girl, readers feel the solidarity and exhaustion that this line of work brings. Illustrator, Carole Byard, reinforces this message with her detailed acrylic paints. This text could be used to discuss child labor and child labor laws and would compliment Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Chil ...more
Briana Nelson
Working Cotton is told from the perspective of a little girl. This picture book is about a day in a life of a family who picks cotton. It explains to us a typical day from when they wake up, pick cotton during the day, and return home. The diction in this story reveals that it’s somewhere in the south because it uses broken English- somewhat of a southern accent. The illustrations are soft and gentle, brushed using acrylic paint. The author chose to use light blues and yellows to represent soft ...more
Dec 08, 2015 Kiya rated it really liked it
This book is a childs view of working on the cotton fields this story took place during a time period of slavery. I thought this book was very straight forward the illustrations of the book showed exactly how the girl felt if you take a look at the front of the book the girl looks tired,sad and angry to be picking cotton althought the watercolor the illustrator used was a bit fuzzy I could follow the feeling the picture was supposed to give. This book like most of the coretta scott king books wo ...more
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Sherley Anne Williams (August 25, 1944 – July 6, 1999) was an African-American poet, novelist, professor, and social critic. Many of her works tell stories about her life in the African-American community.

Williams was born in Bakersfield, California. When she was little her family picked cotton in order to get money. At the age of eight her father died of tuberculosis and when she was sixteen her
More about Sherley Anne Williams...

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