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Working Cotton

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  507 Ratings  ·  97 Reviews
A young black girl relates the daily events of her family's migrant life in the cotton fields of central California.
Hardcover, 0 pages
Published February 15th 1997 by Turtleback Books (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 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 07, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: picturebooks
Good story, although I wondered why the little girl didn't have dreams of leaving the cotton fields for something better. I liked the impressionistic acrylic paintings, but not my favorite style of art.
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When first seeing the cover page of this book it made me really sad. Having to see a little african american girl holding cotton. Knowing this was a true reality for some not so long ago. While reading you find out Sherlay the little girl on the cover wakes up every morning dawn till dusk that she’s goes picking with her family. Sherlay wasn’t going to school , she was picking cotton like the others. Her dad was the top cotton picker, they couldn’t believe how much his hands could pick in a day. ...more
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a tale of a young child who works with her family picking cotton. The narrative is in a southern dialect and some children may have trouble with the grammar, but it adds to the authenticity of this child's experience.

I loved the author's note at the beginning of the book; it's very poignant and still reflective of the limited options for children who live in poverty:

"Our shame as a nation is not that so many children work the fields but that so few of them have other options, that the l
Nov 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Caldecott Honor. Picking cotton by hand from the perspective of a migrant worker child working with her family. Text is okay. Art is stunning, vivid and big. It's a long day and it's captured well enough here to make you tired.
A beautiful story of a young girl who works the field, picking cotton with her family. They are migrant workers.
Amy Foster
Nov 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: caldecott-books
A straightfoward and beautifully presented book.
Mar 22, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I hated the way the child was speaking, I felt offended being an African American.
Only thing that saved this book was the beautiful illustrations.
Not exactly sure what the point of the book was.
Bessana Kendig
Working Cotton written by Sherley Anne Williams and illustrated by Carole Byard, tells the story of a young african american girl named Shelan who picks cotton in the fields with her parents and sisters. Shelan arrives on a bus with her family to pick cotton and wonders if when she grows up she will be able to pick even more cotton like her sisters. The author depicts her own experiences in childhood picking the cotton fields. The Author's note says, "Our shame as a nation is not that so many ch ...more
Maria Rowe
• 1993 Caldecott Honor Book •

This book was ok. I wasn't fond of the text. And I was sort of confused about the message... The author's note at the beginning says, "Our shame as a nation is not that so many children work the fields but that so few of them have other options [...]" But when I read this story, it really seemed like the little girl, Shelan, enjoyed picking cotton. She was jealous she wasn't old enough to get her own bag, she and her family were smiling while having a picnic in the m
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Wendy Weaver
This book is a hard reality of what America is still like. This is not about slave times because there is a school bus at the beginning go the story. I also love the language in the book. Because of the culture in this book, the author does a great job on showing the culture in a warm way. Also beautiful illustrations!
Carly Brown
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book about a little slave girl. The book is written in poor English to really show how a young slave girl would have talked. Really shows how hard slaves had to work, it's very sad but shows how much we as people have grown.
Natalie Ross
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an absolute amazing book. It really took me back, as a student, to my childhood when I went to my great uncles house to pick cotton. As a teacher, this book was also very interesting because it would really teach kids how life was back then and it shows them what really happened.
Stefanie Burns
Story about an African-American family working in the cotton fields. The illustrations are beautifully painted. They capture the feel of the day with the chill in the morning air, the pleasure with Momma singing, and the perspiration and exhaustion at the end of the day.

The story is not written in "proper" English and I think I would have to read it aloud once or twice myself before I could read it the way it was written out loud. Great glimpse into what a day working the cotton fields would be
Meredith Starr
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
Kayla Lazenby
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
Sep 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
“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 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 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
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 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

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
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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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