Book Review: Pictures for Miss Josie

Name of Book Pictures for Miss Josie

Author:  Sandra Beltonmissjosie

Illustrator:  Benny Andrews

Publisher:  Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

ISBN:  978-0688174804

Audience:  ages 5 and up

Summary: This picture book serves to inspire black men, young and old to believe in themselves. This story is written to honor the memory of Mrs. Josephine Carroll Smith (beloved Miss Josie). A child of ex-slaves, Miss Josie a respected educator rose from teacher to Director of Elementary Education in charge of Administration of the Washington, D.C. public schools. Pictures of Miss Josie tells of the relationship of Miss Josie, the woman responsible for outlining the boundaries for the integration of the Washington, D.C., public schools, and one young artist, a young black man of the many she inspired over generations to believe in themselves and all they could become. A story about taking chances, and making friends, and believing in oneself.

Literary elements at with in the story: Pictures for Miss Josie is a biographical fiction picture book. This story is told through the eyes of the son of one of Miss Josie’s boys, who became her boy, too. The narrative is one that takes us on a journey through the years as the both age and the boy becomes a man he finds in her a friend for talking to and she finds in him a new son for helping. This is not a story about slavery, or overcoming poverty, while they are undertones, this is pure inspiration.

Perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability:  Sandra Belton and Benny Andrews through words and illustration offer readers a strong father son narrative that reaches beyond the clichés of the human condition and translates well within any family, congregation or individual seeking to share a book with boys that depicts them as the central character allowed to and encourage to pursue their dreams.Told from the perspective of a young black boy who grows into a man, this story deals with the angst that is sometimes the black male experience in America while poignantly acknowledging that for anyone to believe in themselves they must have someone to believe in them. 

Scripture Connections: 1 Peter 4:10, Hebrews 11

Theological conversation partners: Miss Josie encourages her 2nd generation “almost son” to believe in his artistic gifts and talents and to the put them to good use. Reading these words, one can easily be reminded of Peter admonishment to the exiles to use whatever gift they had received, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. Miss Josie is born into and eulogized at Shiloh Baptist Church, of Washington, D.C., one the oldest African American Churches in Washington, D.C., which was planted by nineteen ex-slaves a group which included her parents. Through the offering of the tidbits of history surrounding Miss Josie’s upbringing and life we learn of a woman who came from a family of the faithful, the values that her parent strived to instill in their children were rooted in faith. John Wesley once said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can,” Miss Josie life epitomized the very idea.

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