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Toning The Sweep

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  394 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Angela Johnson's Coretta Scott King Award winning novel that traces three generations of African American women as they learn one another's truths.

Three generations of African American women, each holding on to a separate truth. Their story -- encompassing racism and murder as well as the family commonplaces that make a life -- is one that readers will never fo
Paperback, 112 pages
Published August 1st 1994 by Scholastic Paperbacks (first published 1993)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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 ·  394 ratings  ·  50 reviews

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Molly Dettmann
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved that this story specifically explored three generations of women and how grief changed the grandma and mother’s lives so tremendously and then how daughter’s discovery about it led her to understand more about these women than she had before. So good! Can’t believe it was only about 100 pages because it felt like so much more!
Deandre Quarless
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
All your life has you ever read or seen a book that you can relate to in some way, for instance a book that’s eye popping and caught all your attention when you seen it. That’s what had happened when I saw the book Toning the Sweep by Angela Johnson, the rich colorful book cover that explained so much about the book and how much daring it would be to read.

Everyone in their life they’ve have been attached to and have a strong connection with someone whether it’s a friend or family. Family is a b
Whitney Priestley
May 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a fast read, only 103 pages long, yet there was so much depth to it. I was really surprised on how developed each character was even though it was a short book. This book is written and published for young adults, but I felt like I was reading a much more mature book. I found this one to be very refreshing from the more common young adult books. I felt like this was more real and simple yet captivating. I really did enjoy the book.

WARNINGS: There are none.
Oct 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Emily with her mother is helping her grandmother, Ola, who is living with terminal cancer, pack up her house in the desert Southwest so that she can move to Cleveland to live with Emily and her parents. Because she is grieving for the loss of the house in the desert, and all her grandmother's friends there, she films Ola and her friends to make a memory for her grandmother. In the process she learns about the death of her grandfather in Alabama during the Civil Rights era.
This is an except
Sep 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is my absolute favorite children's book. Read it carefully so that you don't miss the deep ideas in this eloquent and simply written easy read. I think it was 1993 when I read it for the first time with my class of 4th graders. I've read it at least 15 times since then. I enjoy sharing it with my students when I really have time to show them the beauty of this book. I also shared it with my adult book club. They were impressed by our heavy discussion of a "children's book".
Darcia Scates
Aug 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: juvenile-fiction
I didn't enjoy this book. It read like a diary, and then tried to be general fiction. The changes were not enjoyable. I would not be proud of this book and I am not likely to knowingly pick up another book written by this author. The Coretta Scott King committee passed over several other good books to choose this one ? Disappointed.
Miriam Larson
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Love is a given among the three generations of women in this family, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without challenges. As Emmie and her mom help Ola, Emmie’s grandma, pack up to leave her home in the desert, the losses of both older women unfurl. Ola lost her husband to the violence of southern racism. Emmie’s Mom lost her father and was followed by her trauma to the desert where she grew up. Surrounded by loving friends, Emmie makes a video and from behind the camera comes to better understand ...more
Julie Trapp
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018-books
Emily and her mom have gone to bring her grandmother back to live with them as she is dying of cancer. They go thru her home and find stuff, give away stuff and Emily discover secrets she did not know about her grandparents and her mother. One of her grandmother's friends lends her a movie camera and she records everything - people talking, eating, reading, doing nothing, objects - to have a record of her grandmother's life. Kind of a boring story. Had to look it up on Google to know what "tonin ...more
Carolyn Jeziorski
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book explores the relationships between three generations of women. Ennis and her mom travel to the California desert to help her grandmother pack up her things; she has cancer and is going to stay back in Ohio with them. As the book unfolds, we learn about the personal tragedies that shaped each character’s life. The supporting characters are also interesting...Martha, the aunts, David. This short book deals with some heavy emotions.
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The prose is beautiful and the characters feel very real.
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Lovely, soft novel that read like a series of vignettes, about mourning & family & women.
Mar 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, classroom
The characters are endearing. This is a thought-provoking novel which allows the reader to reflect on the plot but at times requires the reader to add to it. The theme of toning the sweep was subtle and felt almost like an afterthought.
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a really quick read and would be excellent for youth. A simple story about three generations of women and their families.
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This one was really interesting. The young protagonist explores her relationships with her mother and grandmother. The three generations have so many things in common, but some differences keep them apart as well. I picked this one because I had to know what toning a sweep was. Now I do. :) I liked how Emmie decided that she needed to finally say goodbye to her grandfather, though she never knew him as anything more than a black and white photograph.
Sep 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Angela Johnson expertly weaves the interconnecting story of three generations of women in the same family through the voice of the protagonist, Emmie, the granddaughter. The present story of Ola, the grandmother, dealing with her cancer and preparing to move across the country to live with her daughter and granddaughter progresses by being told through stories from the past that are voiced through other minor characters. The setting of the desert is fluid and ever-changing, mirroring the three m ...more
Rachel Parker
Jun 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
This book is about a fourteen year old girl named Emmie who has gone to California to help her Grandmother Ola. Ola has been diagnosed with cancer so Emmie and her mother have decided that Ola should move in with their family. The story takes place while the women pack up all of Ola's belongings in her home. Emmie takes this time to take an old video camera and record people around town talk about Ola. How they met her, what she is like, how she has changed their lives etc. Through this process ...more
Bobby Parker
Jun 21, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 10-books-june-22
This book is about a young black girl who travels with her mom to the desert in order to pick up her grandma so she can live with them. Her grandma is dying of cancer but this story focuses on the young girl and her coming to terms and learning things about her family (mostly her grandmother and mother that she didn't know. She meets her grandma's friends and finds out things about her grandfather and about her mother and grandmother's relationship.

I am not the world's most gun ho re
Sep 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Toning The Sweep is about a young girl named Emily trying to understand herself and the world around her. For as long as she can remember she would visit her grandmother Ola in the desert ,but when she is diagnosed with cancer she made the decision to move to Cleveland with her daughter. As the family is at Ola's to help pack Emily gets the idea to videotape the farewell. She gets shots of all the friends Ola made in the desert along with the stories of the their journey's together. because of t ...more
Oct 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What a perfect little book. I hope that when our budget is restored, I can add this to the 9th grade curriculum. Unlike so many books written at an accessible level for reluctant and struggling adolescent readers, this book is well-written and philosophically deep. The story of a 14-year old girl coming to terms with her grandmother's cancer, and her grandfather's death years before she was born, it speaks to the need for ritual and and symbolism as we mark the milestones in life, as well as to ...more
Sep 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
If you grew up with grandparents that you visited regularly in a different town from yours, then there probably came a time in your life when your grandparents passed away or were no longer able to live on their own--so you lost a beloved person and a beloved place at the same time. This short book (about 100 pages) tells the story of a fourteen year-old girl from Cleveland who is going through that loss as she helps her grandmother, who has cancer, pack up her house in the California desert. Ki ...more
Toning the Sweep really managed to showcase the many different kinds of female relationships. Although there are no overt female/female love interests, I think they're quite a bit of subtext to indicate one. I really enjoyed this book over all. It's a lot about family: the kind you're born into and the kind you make on your own. And it's a little bit about trying to find yourself when you don't know all about your history. I really enjoyed this one. I would recommend this one to people who like ...more
Teajanae Bennett
Oct 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is very heartwarming and has a powerful ending. In the book Emily helps everyone recover from the death of her grandmother. Emily's grandmother ,Ola, is suffering from cancer and is told that she will die soon so she moves with Emily and her mother only to find good things. One thing I really enjoyed about this book is that Ola's friend Martha has many adopted children one of which helps Emily with everything and is always there for her. I strongly recommend this book because it is ver ...more
Sep 23, 2010 added it
Shelves: chl-lit, ya-fiction
"One of the best-reviewed novels for young adults in 1993, this powerful debut is reminiscent of Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale. This story spans three generations of African-American women and their struggle to find a common ground for sharing love, friendship, and hardships. Young Adult."

There wasn't any basketball or amputations, so it exceeded my expectations as YA realistic fiction... but I bet there would be both of those things if there was a sequel.
Debbie Tanner
Toning the sweep refers to a custom of striking a plow (a sweep) or another piece of metal with a hammer when someone dies. It's supposed to help them move to the next plane of life. This book is about a family dealing with death. On one hand, they are dealing with the death of their husband and father, more than 30 years ago and on the other hand, they are dealing with the impending death of mother/grandmother.
Feb 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Emily is 14 when she and her mother visit her grandmother, who is dying of cancer. They pack up Ola's belongings so that she can live with them in Cleveland until she dies. Emily makes a movie for her granmother, and for herself, that helps her come to terms with Ola's imminent death. As she films Ola's friends and loved ones, Emily learns much about her family and their past.

A bittersweet and, ultimately, triumphant novel filled with the stories of strong women.

Oct 07, 2010 rated it did not like it
i think this book was a waste of my time dont get me wrong this is a good book but its not for me.okayy im a give you a little bout the book. its about this gil named Ola and she is an older lady and she lives out in the dessert and her daughter and grand daughter come out to get her casue he is sick with some desiese. and all throught the whole book she is talking about her life and stuff. that sounds all fine and dandy but not for me i would like a book with a little more action.
Brandon Campbell
Jun 24, 2010 rated it liked it
This book is a very interesting book that takes place in the south . It reminds me of my family , mainly my elders and how certain things as younger children we dont understand until were grown , One of those essiantial things in this book is Toning the sweep which is ascending dead family into heaven that the younger ones dont understand
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Angela Johnson won the Coretta Scott King Award for this book and I can see why. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. While written on a teen's level, the story is profound and draws the reader into literally reading every word. Toning the Sweep is for everyone and needs to be read by everyone.
Donna Siebold
Jul 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: the-hub-2018
Emmie's grandmother Ola lives in the desert. Emmie loves to visit her there. Now she and her mother are visiting for the last time. Ola is dying of cancer and she is going to move in with Emmie's family. While there Emmie learns a lot about family - the kind from blood and the kind from love. She learns about her family's past and why her grandmother moved to the desert and why her mother was never happy there.

Emmie learns of a practice of sending off your loved ones after they die.
Brooklyn F
Oct 23, 2009 rated it liked it
This book Toning The Sweep is about a girl Emily and her Grandmother. Ola is the grandmother and she lives in a desert. Ola is very sick and is she packing up to move to Clevland with Emily. Her husband died in the war of 1964. I liked this book it is talking about to help your anyone around.
Sep 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens-books
Young adult fiction that an adult could love. It's a little slow-moving at first, but worth the read. Great coming-of-age story for teenage girls (main character is 14). Won the 1994 Coretta Scott King Award.
Oct 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: for-work, hard-issues
I wish this story had delved a little more into her grandmothers illness and what happen to her grandfather. It would have had more impact that way.

It's still a solid book for younger readers.
This book encompasses three generations of women who have encountered different types of racism throughout their lives and gives the reader a view into the way that they lived.
Nov 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Girls Books Class, book 8.

Really liked this book. Complicated characters and writing that holds up to a critical eye.
Dec 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
I found this book to be a tad bit dry.
Mar 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: age-high-school
Coming-of-age story; lovely writing.
Jul 21, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
Great story on life and death. However, pretty confusing since I had NO CLUE what "Tone the Sweep" meant. I had to google it...and still was left clueless...I kind of know what it is now. If I were to use this story in my classroom, I'd have to build the schema for my kids.
Colton Nisley
Oct 12, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1st-quarter
it was a book of poetry which i admit some was good but not my type of book.
Feb 24, 2011 rated it liked it
My mom made me read it ( that says a lot )it was better than i thought it would be
Anna Chappell
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fast read but full of depth and beauty. I really loved all the characters and their relationships.
Cheryl Meibos
Mar 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
I think this book is about appreciating the part of life you are currently in and
preparing to say goodbye to those you love who may be dying soon. It's a quiet book
about a 14 year old girl and her mother and grandmother and the friends they have made.
Mar 03, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
This is a sweet little story. Fourteen-year-old Emmie's grandmother Ola lives in the desert, and has just been diagnosed with cancer. The story details Emmie's discoveries about herself and her family and friends when Emmie & her mother come to help pack up Ola to move back east to the city with them.
Jun 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This little book masterfully shows it is not the length of a book but the crafting of words that counts. When I think of this book, I think of yellow. The depiction of the desert is so vivid the desert almost becomes a character.
Sep 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone dealing with loss; 'tweens; girls for the strong female role models
Loved this very short, concise novel about coming to grips with death and loss. Not morose. Thoughtful. Comforting. Alive.
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“I don't know if I'd call either of them restless. Maybe hyperactive about some things. Anyway, I think as long as your soul is still attached to your body, it's impossible for it to be restless. I think you go where your spirit takes you.” 0 likes
“It's not so reasonable, Emmie, to believe you know everything about everyone's life. So how can you be disappointed at something that happened so long ago. You're angry because you know you have no right to be angry.” 0 likes
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