For Women’s History Month, let’s take a look at the fantastic new historical fiction picture book, Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by London Ladd.
What do you do if you find hints that there’s a fascinating person in history, but you can only find a few tantalizing mentions of her existence? What if the person’s name changed in the records, making it nearly impossible to get more information? If you are Janet Halfmann, you don’t give up.
Janet Halfmann followed the thread through history by tracing ancestral records. Once she contacted Lilly Ann Granderson’s descendants, she was able to pull together more of the story. This book is the result of persistent sleuthing and it paid off. Although this had to be a work of historical fiction because of the scarcity of details, Janet Halfmann built it on a solid foundation of historical fact.
Why did Halfmann want to tell this story so much? As an enslaved woman growing up in the 1820s and 1830s, Lilly Ann Granderson wasn’t allowed to learn read. Regardless, when her master’s children played school she joined in and used an old speller to teach herself. Later, she shared her learning with many other slaves. She held school at midnight so the owners wouldn’t find out, at the threat of a painful punishment if she were caught. She knew the ability to read was important enough to risk the consequences and she was dedicated to learning. She stood up and made a difference in the lives of those around her, and those who came after.
Adding tension to the story, London Ladd’s acrylic illustrations give just the right touch of drama. Check out his artistic process, starting from rough sketches. He even acts out the scenes and takes photographs of himself to help capture the mood.
Midnight Teacher would be perfect for Women’s History Month, but it also would be great for reluctant readers who might just be inspired to try harder by Lilly Ann Granderson’s dedication to education. Pick up a copy to share today!
- Lee & Low Books has a downloadable Teacher’s Guide to accompany the book.
- See Janet Halfmann’s discussion of how the book came about.
Age Range: 7 – 10 years
Publisher: Lee & Low Books; Illustrated edition (February 13, 2018)
Disclosures: This book was provided electronically by the publisher for review purposes. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.