The Listeners (Tales of Young Americans) (Hardcover)
Winter 2009 Kids' List
“Exquisite illustrations accompany the story of Ella May, a slave girl, who, along with her two friends, has been given the important job of 'listening.' Each night, after their work is done, they hide beneath the plantation's windows, gathering bits of news from their owner's conversations. Through Ella May's eyes, ears, and words, we get a glimpse into the precarious life of slave families. This is a graceful and thoughtful introduction to the issue of slavery.”
— Bev Denor, LaDeDa Books, Manitowoc, WI
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 master's house. The children listen in the hopes of gleaning information about their fates and those of their loved ones. Who will be sold? Who will stay? The lives of slaves depended on the inclinations of their owners. They had no control over their daily lives or futures. But they could dream. And when the promise of freedom appears on the horizon, the children are the first to hear it. Gloria Whelan's other titles in the Tales of Young Americans series include Friend on Freedom River (Jefferson Cup honor book) and Mackinac Bridge: The Story of the Five-Mile Poem (2007 Michigan Notable Book). Ms. Whelan lives in Michigan. Mike Benny's illustrations have appeared in Time, GQ, and The New Yorker magazines. His awards include three gold and two silver medals from the Society of Illustrators. He also illustrated America's White Table. Mike lives in Austin, Texas.