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Working Cotton

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  408 Ratings  ·  74 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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List for #nerdcott
225th out of 335 books — 37 voters
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Caldecott Honor Books
174th out of 251 books — 178 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 677)
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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.
Amy Foster
Nov 29, 2014 Amy Foster rated it it was amazing
Shelves: caldecott-books
A straightfoward and beautifully presented book.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Sherry Thornberry
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Hollee Young
I really enjoyed reading this book. I liked the illustrations throughout the text. I love how they tied the history into it. It makes you realize how uneducated some African Americans that were put into slavery. Since they did not have the opportunity to receive the same education as whites they did not have correct pronunciation. I like how the author put you in the mind set of the little girl telling the story. I like how you got to see everything the way she did.
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
Mar 30, 2014 Janet rated it really liked it
Having seen the vast vast cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta, the illustrations and text of this title were very real as to what it was like to work the cotton fields either as a slave or as in this title migrant workers. Incredible is the strength and endurance of those who lived this experience of migrant labors or previously those of slaves.
Mar 17, 2015 Kayla rated it liked it
Shelves: diversity
I like how the author demonstrated the characters voice. For example, the very first page it states, "We gets to the fields early, before it's even light. Sometime I still be sleep." This book can open the reader's eyes and see how it was for a family to pick cotton together. It was a very challenging demanding time back then.
Christine Medunycia
This story shows a family working hard together and still being a family while at it which I admire. The illustrations are beautiful, they show the hard work and the heat along with what a toll the hard work takes on their bodies. The young girl telling the story says it in a matter-of-fact manner and in slang. It makes the story real.
A day in the life of a migrant cotton worker as told through the eyes of a young girl is the premise of Working Cotton. Gorgeous acrylic paint illustrations help the story along, but the words are much too simple and easy-going to fully describe the hardship and long working hours put in by these determined people.
Angela Hutchinson
This book is about a little girl and her family picking cotton in the hot summer heat. The setting of this book is portrayed during the time of slavery. The girl talks about her life in the cotton fields and making friends that she knew she would never see again. This would be a good book to read to students when talking about the struggles pf the Africa-American people during their captivity.
Mar 18, 2014 Lisa rated it really liked it
This is a Caldecott Honor book and the illustrations clearly identify with that. I enjoyed this book being from a child's point of view about their work in the cotton fields because students would be able to relate to the child while reading. You could read this book when talking about the South and slavery.
Jordan Williams
This book uses great details that really make you feel you are experiencing it yourself. I feel bad for children that had to work in cotton fields. Well, I feel sorry for anyone that does. This book is somewhat of an eye opener. These people were hungry, thirsty, yet they never seemed to complain. Its sad to read, but apart of history that we should all be aware of.
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
Savanna Grace
For a history on African American slavery, this book would be a great choice. It gives a brief story of a day of a slave, how they talked, and what they may have talked about. The illustrator has won a couple of Coretta Scott King Awards, and this book is beautifully illustrated.
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
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
The most interesting point that I liked about this book was that it was the child's perspective of working in the cotton fields. I found myself feeling very sorry for the whole family as I read the story because of the conditions they had to work in, and the little girl having to work period when she was barely that old. However, I think it does show kids what it was like back in the time of slavery and what those families had to go through and the conditions they had to work in.
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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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