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A Voice of Her Own: A Story of Phillis…

A Voice of Her Own: A Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet (edition 2005)

by Kathryn Lasky, Paul Lee (Illustrator)

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939129,846 (4.14)1
This book tells the story of Phillis Wheatley who was born a slave and began writing at 12 years old. She was the first African American poet to be published. ( )
  mgiffin | Apr 26, 2012 |
Showing 9 of 9
A biography picture book of a name-less slave girl, who was kidnapped from her very home in Africa. Kidnapped in the darkness of the night, lodged onto a slave ship in a cold holding room was all that she remembered of that night. This dark area is where thoughts of her mother came to her mind. Maybe thoughts of her mother were a comfort in this difficult time, a way to not worry about surrounding circumstances. Reaching America, this young naked, greased, fragile, young girl was sold to the Wheatley family. Immediately they named her, ironically Phillis is the name of the slave ship she arrived on, and that is the name they chose for her. For me this name would remind me where I came from, a way to remember the people who captured me. Being a slave, never speaking English, Phillis began to learn reading and writing in English at a fast pace. Mrs. Wheatley was responsible for teaching Phillis, even though it was against the law. Phillis began writing poems in her spare time with tools given by her owners, Phillis had her first poem published in 1767. Many of her poems were written while she was a slave, about things happening in her neighborhood. Being the first published slave poet, Phillis was invited to recite her poems for several well-known men, she was sent to England and “received into many fine homes”. While in England Phillis had her very first book published, “the first book ever written by a black American woman.” This was a remarkable achievement; Phillis was the first African American to publish a book. “Everyone wanted to meet the young Negro slave poet from America.” As the book goes on we learn when the Wheatley family passed, they gave Phillis her “manumission papers, freeing her from slavery…”
I enjoyed reading this book, not knowing who Phillis Wheatley was, this book gives me a great background and story of her life. This is a must read for children, grades 4-7. Helping them realize that no matter what happens in life, that there is always a way to do the impossible, also a good lesson on what happened during a slave trade. Being a slave girl coming to America, not knowing her own name to accomplish as much as Phillis has is incredible. ( )
  cchaney | Jan 20, 2016 |
This is a wonderful little gem of a book about Phillis Wheatley, a woman who was brought to the United States aboard a slave ship and sold into slavery to a Boston family in 1761. She knew no English, but learned to read and write and eventually became a poet. She was the first slave to have a book published and became widely known and liked not only in the US, but in England as well. The story's timeline is a bit jumpy and not very complete (in my opinion), but it is a refreshing story about a slave girl that tells of a positive outcome and experience rather than of a sad and terrible one that we often hear about when slavery is involved. I think it is great for students to see another side to the institution of slavery, since it was such a huge part of our nation's history. The illustrations are great, though not very historically accurate (which is noted in the book). I did also enjoy this story and it is great for another perspective. ( )
  meblack19 | Feb 23, 2014 |
Opening in 1761, as a young girl sits miserably huddled in the hold of a slave ship bound for the Americas, A Voice of Her Own is a picture-book examination of the life of Phillis Wheatley, the first African-American poet ever to be published. Purchased by the wealthy Wheatley family of Boston, and named 'Phillis' after the ship which brought her from Africa, she so impressed her owners with her intelligence that they took the unheard of step of educating her. While still a slave in the Wheatley household, she became a published poet, a guest in many of Boston's finest homes, where she was asked to recite, and traveled to England. She dedicated poems to well-known clergymen, to George Washington, and wrote sympathetically of the colonists' determination to free themselves from British rule. Eventually, she herself was freed, although (as is made plain in the afterword) her story did not end happily...

I found this an immensely engaging biography of a fascinating historical and literary figure, and was impressed with the way that Lasky's well-written narrative captured the desolation of Wheatley's early kidnapping and enslavement, and the subsequent story of her education, and development as a writer. How strange and disconcerting it must have been for Wheatley, to take tea in the drawing room of the Finch family, when the master of the house owned the very ship, the 'Phillis,' that brought her to the Americas! How odd that she wrote so sympathetically of the patriots' cause, and believe in their right to freedom, when no American publisher would print her work, because she was African! So many things struck me, in my reading: how unusual Wheatley's story was, how few women of that day were educated to her level, and how few slaves.

All in all, this is an effective biography, in that it made me want to know more! I want to know more about Wheatley's life, and I want to read her poetry - in the eighteenth-century original, of course! I may have to look her up on archive.org... ( )
1 vote AbigailAdams26 | Apr 18, 2013 |
A look at the life of a young african american slave girl who was able to write poems. She was bought by a white family and they educated her, but the rest of the world were still prejudiced against her. ( )
  epalaz | Feb 8, 2013 |
This informational picture book focuses on the life and times of Phillis Wheatley, an African American slave and poet. The book begins with Phillis' traumatic kidnapping and horrific journey to Boston aboard a slave ship. It recounts how her owner, Susannah Wheatley, saw in Phillis an innate desire to learn and express herself creatively, which resulted in Susannah's unprecedented desire to nurture Phillis' aptitude. Phillis became a renowned poet whose writings often reflected the tumultuous final years of America's colonial ties to England. Although her writings were respected as an odd novelty, she was shunned in America and only found support to finance her works in England. However, her talent could not be denied, and her works were eventually published in 1774.

As a work of nonfiction, I believe this book strives to remain as historically accurate as possible while connecting Phillis' life story and works to the historically important era in which she lived. Since the book is organized chronologically, it includes excerpts from her poetry that reflect her emotions and the general associations affixed to important happenings like the passing of the Stamp Act. It of course simplifies these aspects for a younger audience, but includes names like Crispus Attucks, John Hancock, and George Washington which are names that should entice students. The book also draws a parallel between Phillis' situation as a slave and America's own yearning for freedom, which is an interesting detail.

The book also blurs the line between fiction and nonfiction by suggesting the idea that Phillis regularly had flashbacks of her life in Africa and her mother performing religious rituals. Of course this could have happened, but I believe they serve as moments in the book to highlight the atrocities of the slave trade and the sense of otherness that Phillis must have felt while living in a strange new land. But the book does address this break from reality by sometimes stating that Philis "maybe thought of her own mother" (Lasky 15). The writing and illustrations also deserve recognition for their ability to immerse readers into the experiences Phillis' endured particularly during her trip across the Atlantic.

This book would be extremely helpful in the younger grades considered to be secondary. It would be relevant for grades seven through third, and I could easily see myself using this text in a history or social studies lesson which focused on early American history, the slave trade, colonial Boston, or early American slavery. It could also easily be used in a literature class which focused on poetry, early American writers, female writers, or African American writers. ( )
  kaamstutz | Jan 20, 2013 |
This book tells the story of Phillis Wheatley who was born a slave and began writing at 12 years old. She was the first African American poet to be published. ( )
  mgiffin | Apr 26, 2012 |
This is a picture book about the story of Phillis Wheatley. Phillis Wheatley was born a slave and became a learned young woman who was writing poetry by the age of 12. When she was seventeen years old she became famous. ( )
  mmgomez1 | Apr 17, 2012 |
This was a really great biography about the slave poet Phillis Wheatley. I could use this book when teaching about early American history, slavery, or poetry ( )
  lekenned | Nov 30, 2011 |
Genre: Biography
Critique of Genre: This is a wonderful biography of an African American girl brought to America and thrown into slavery, but "changed her stars" you might say, with the help of her owners. Her "mother," the woman who owned her and took Phillis under her wing, encouraged her to get and education and write the words down that were swimming in her head. She, with many hardships, ended up being the first African American poet to be published in "the land of the free."
Characterization: Phillis is a full character. She is rounded by the was she faces her adversity and fights it head on. She is also dynamic in that she came to America as a slave girl being stripped of her whole identity and then fought back over time, got an education and became a woman of stature in her time.
Media: oil ( )
  jessy555 | Oct 21, 2008 |
Showing 9 of 9

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Candlewick Press

An edition of this book was published by Candlewick Press.

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