The Listeners (Tales of Young Americans)
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The Listeners (Tales of Young Americans)

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  87 ratings  ·  31 reviews

Ella May lives on a plantation but she doesn’t live in the great house. She is a slave. It’s dark in the morning when Ella May heads to the fields to pick cotton. And it’s sunset when she comes home. But her day isn’t done, not yet. Ella May still has important work to do. She’s got to listen.

Each night Ella May and her friends secretly listen outside the windows of their

Hardcover, 40 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by Sleeping Bear Press
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Becky Birtha
I found it refreshing to read a picture book on African Americans during the time of slavery that wasn't about escaping on the underground railroad. Ella May, who tells the story, and her friends Sue and Bobby, work during the day, as their parents do. But after supper, the children have the additional task of hiding near the windows of the master's house, to listen for news that may be useful to their parents. The Listeners touches on quite a few historical details, including cotton picking and...more
3.75 Stars This is a nice book with beautiful pictures. The story is great too. I make me mad and sad to think white people thought they had the right to own black people. I know they didn't see them as full human, and in the book it says "Slaves are cheaper than horses" It makes me sick.

This type of book is one that needs to be read and talked about. How would you feel if your daddy got 'sold' to another plantation and you never got to see him again? I know my heart would break and probably...more
Sandy Brehl
This depicts a seldom described role of the youngest slaves. In the evenings they were sent to "play" quietly under the open windows of the parlor of the master's house, listening for news and plans that would affect their lives. They might overhear gossip or music, but they were most attuned to word of slave sales and changes in plantation supervision. Of all the hardships children suffered as slaves, this heavy responsibility served the needs of their families rather than those of the master....more
Slave children were often instructed to creep under the windows of the "Big House" and listen to what was being said by the family. This was the only way the slaves learned what was happening around them, and to them.

This is a story of those children. They listen at the big house window after evening mealtime and report back to their parents what they heard. They hear things such as a new overseer will be hired, a neighbor had asked to purchase a slave but that slave couldn't be spared. One nigh...more
Whelan, G. (2009). The Listeners. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press.


Appetizer: This historical picturebook shows the experience of slavery through the eyes of children who, after a long day of labor in the cotton fields, were tasked with listening to the plantation owners.

As you can probably imagine with a picturebook about slavery, this book is very emotionally stirring. The page where the children overhear that the master is considering selling William, the narrator (Ella May's) fa...more
Vanessa West
The Listeners is about slavery which is a very touchy subject, but the good thing is this book does not have the scary parts of slavery to where children would be disturbed. Around 8 years old would be a good age to read this historical fiction book. “The Listeners” is about a young girl named Ella May who is a child that is under slavery with her family. The book goes through her life from picking cotton all day and then trying to listen all night about what is going on with their plantation an...more
I have read a fair amount of picture books about slavery, and it seems common to have child narrators for these texts, which makes sense given the audience. However, this book was the first to explicitly display a job which was especially suited to slave children: eavesdropping. That said, I thought that it did not have the emotional oomph I was expecting, and that the characters were pretty flat, both in the text as well as in the illustrations which made a lot of black faces look similar, whic...more
I have always enjoyed Gloria Whelan's gentle, quiet writing style. This is the first picture book of hers I've read, and it's quite nice.

At the end of every day, Ella May and her friends, Bobby and Sue, are sent to the big house on the plantation to listen beneath the windows. There they would sometimes hear news that would impact the slaves--a new slave boss, possible slave trades, a new President, and more. Ultimately, it's a story of hope.

I had never heard about this aspect of slave society,...more
Meghan Brigan
The Listeners tell the story of Ella May. She is a slave on a plantation in the south. She picks cotton all day and at night her and the other children gather to listen outside the masters house. It is there only connection to the world and vital information that directly effects their lives. This book is for children ages six and up. It is a realistic example of historical fiction. The illustrations are wonderfully detailed and expressive. They draw out the deep seperation between the slaves an...more
What a delightful book about the role children played during slavery and their attempt at freedom!
Jessica Pedersen
The Listeners is a story of slave children who sit beneath their owners window at night and eavesdrop on his conversations. They do this so they can find out if anyone is going to be sold. One night they hear the there is a new president elected who is going to end slavery. The hope that Abraham Lincoln gave to slaves is inspiring. Would definitely read to an elementary school class when learning about Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, or slavery.
Pat Marrujo
The Listeners tells the story of some slave children who go and listen to their masters every night and then report back to their parents. They do this so that all the slaves can be ready for anything that could happen the coming days.

It gives kids a somewhat softer look inside of slave life in America. At the end, it talks about Lincoln getting elected and the slaves rejoice. It it a good way to introduce the emancipation proclamation to kids.
Love the pictures. And love the story about slave children who listened at the master's house to find out "what was coming."

Totally unsure of what the kids would think of this one. Now that I've actually read it I will have to promote it more with students and teachers and see what happens.

One of those inbetween titles where it has more words than your average picture book. But definitely not long enough to be a "chapter" book.
Oct 30, 2009 Sheila rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sheila by:
Shelves: bgw, childrens
The Listeners is a heartbreaking look at what life was like for young children slaves. Ella May is a young slave girl, who works in the fields picking cotton during the day, but at night she is sent to listen by the windows of the slave owners house to gather any information she can about what is happening, such as who will be sold, and events of the world. This book is part of the Tales of Young America series.
The Reading Countess
Raved about by my school librarian, I picked the book up as a possibility for my short story Mondays. The book is beautifully illustrated and is a feast for the eyes. The story tugs at the reader's heart about children asked to listen at the window of their masters so that they can relay the information learned to their slave community. This book is a beautiful combination of artwork and plot.
Beautiful book. Children slaves sent to listen outside the master's windows at night so their family has a heads up about what may be coming. Writers are listeners, we are all listeners. We tell the stories we hear. Abraham Lincoln is elected and they know him as Moses sent to free their people. Fantastic book. Great teaching fodder here. I try to use "fodder" whenever possible ;)
Gail Barge
An interesting take on slavery, from the eyes of a young girl who "listens" for news from her masters. I would use this book when my students are studying slavery in older grades and to discuss when Lincoln became president and what many people thought would happen. A sweet story unlike any perspective on slavery I think I have ever read.
Marguarite Markley
I really like historical fiction picture books. When they are geared towards older aged children, I think they are very helpful in bringing history to life. This is a slavery story from the perspective of a slave child. Great read-aloud (3-5 grade)
The illustrations remind me of Kadir Nelson, and are the reason I gave this one four stars. The text is illuminating (I had never thought of the idea of 'listeners') and a nice choice for introducing young children to the concept of slavery.
Kim Stroberg
One of my favorites. I struggled with how to tell my third graders about slavery (they learn more in 4th gradeA) This is a book I can really use in my classroom. Not such a feel good book, but one that should be read nonetheless.
A short story about slave children on a cotton plantation, whose job it is to listen at the open windows of their masters, in order to keep the adult slaves informed. The illustrations are beautiful, and the story simple but effective.
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
Beautiful illustrations support this story about children of slaves who learned to "listen" in order to gain access to information to protect themselves. Nice addition to any collection of books for Black History Month.
I've been to the plantation they used as a model for the pictures in this book; somehow that made this more realistic to me. Beautiful pictures; good solid historical text; and not too heavy-handed.
Rusty Gregory
"It's still dark in the morning when the boss blows on the bugle."

I have not read a picture book like this before. It was interesting to see a small part of the main characters life and how it changed.
Ella may is a slave at a southern cotton plantation. After her days work she and her friends listen at the masters window for news; news about their lives on the plantation and news of the country.
Very interesting (I had no idea about the listeners) and I love the illustrations, except for people's faces--don't really like how those are done. But the landscapes are so beautiful.
Beautiful stories and beautiful illustrations. I especially loved the gentle writing and lovely imagery.
Becky Aughenbaugh
Very good book and topic for elementary school. Probably wouldn't use it with my preschoolers.
picture book about slavery from the childrens point of view.
introduction to slavery for very young children
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Gloria Whelan is the best-selling author of many novels for young readers, including Homeless Bird, winner of the National Book Award; Friutlands: Louisa May Alcott Made Perfect; Angel on the Square and its companion, The Impossible Journey; Once on this Island, winner of the Great Lakes Book Award; Farewell to the Island; and Return to the Island. She lives with her husband, Joseph, in the woods...more
More about Gloria Whelan...
Homeless Bird Listening for Lions Angel on the Square (Angel on the Square, #1) Chu Ju's House Small Acts of Amazing Courage

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