Zeely (1967): In Virginia Hamilton’s first work of fiction, two children visiting their Uncle Ross’ farm create a magical summer. To begin their adventure, 11-year-old Elizabeth assigns new names — Geeder and Toeboy, respectively — to her and younger brother John. When Geeder finds a photo of a Watutsi queen who looks remarkably like her new friend, Zeely, she is convinced of Zeely’s royalty, and the fun begins.
October 2011 Issue
Page Turners: Young Readers' Classics
Get to know Yellow Springs author Virginia Hamilton with these beloved books.
The House of Dies Drear (1968): In her Edgar Allan Poe Award-winning novel, Hamilton encapsulates century-old secrets and danger. Thomas and his family have just moved into a house that was once a stop on the Underground Railroad. So, he can’t ignore the strange events unfolding amid the labyrinth of tunnels. Hamilton creates nail-biting suspense as she reveals the story of murder and hardship.
The Planet of Junior Brown (1971): In this Newbery Honor Book, musical genius Junior Brown, an obese and shy child, finds refuge in his school’s basement with homeless boy Buddy Clark and janitor Mr. Pool. The boys, fascinated by Mr. Pool’s homemade solar system, decide to skip class. But it’s only a matter of time before they’re discovered, and Buddy does his best to protect Junior from his overbearing mother. Loyalty and strength pull the boys through in this gripping tale of misfits.
Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush (1982): Hamilton’s Newbury Honor novel is the story of fatherless, 14-year-old Theresa, who parents her mentally challenged older brother, Dabney, so her mother can work. As a result of meeting a handsome young stranger, Brother Rush, the teen explores her family’s troubled and tangled history and, ultimately, finds understanding.
Anthony Burns: The Defeat and Triumph of a Fugitive Slave (1988): Virginia slave Anthony Burns found freedom in 1854, at the age of 20. But soon after, his new world in Boston is turned upside down by the Fugitive Slave Act – a controversial federal law allowing owners to reclaim slaves with proof of original ownership. Believing him to be a symbol of freedom, Anthony’s strong allies join him in the fight against his former owner, Charles Suttle.
The People Could Fly (text 1985/illustration 2004): This picture book, which received the Coretta Scott King Award, recounts a black folk tale about an old man with the power to help slaves soar to freedom.
Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales and True Tales (1995): This illustrated book earned the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for the 19 stories dedicated to the strength and dreams of African American women. In a broad range of legends, including the somber Marie and Redfish and the lighthearted tale Little Girl and Buh Rabby, the collection brings to light humankind’s ability to feel sorrow, happiness and fear.