Oldest Student : How Mary Walker Learned to Read
by Hubbard, Rita Lorraine; Mora, Oge (ILT)

"A picture book biography sharing the inspiring and incredible true story of the nation's oldest student, Mary Walker, who learned to read at the age of 116"-

Rita Lorraine Hubbard is the author of a number of nonfiction books for adults and runs the children's book review site Picture Book Depot. She is the author of Hammering for Freedom: The Story of William Lewis, which was awarded the New Voices Award by Lee & Low Books and has received three starred reviews. Ms. Hubbard lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee. You can find her online at ritahubbard.com.

Oge Mora is the author/illustrator of Thank You, Omu! which won a Caldecott Honor as well as the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award. It was also selected as a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice Staff Pick and was chosen by both Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal as a Best Book of 2018. Visit her at ogemora.com.

*Starred Review* Mary Walker was born in the South eight years before the Emancipation Proclamation. She always contributed to the household, from her youth of enslavement to her time as a sharecropper. Mary longed to read, but marriage, child-rearing, and work kept her so busy that she couldn't fulfill her dream until she was a centenarian. When, at age 116, she was finally able to read her favorite book, the Bible, she was declared the oldest student in the nation. With simple, no-frills prose, Hubbard (Hammering to Freedom, 2018) recounts the story of this hardworking woman who lived through 26 U.S. presidents and experienced the end of slavery, as well as the civil rights movement. This is a work that points to the small contributions of African Americans that have made a big impact. Caldecott Honor Book author-illustrator Mora's (Thank You, Omu!, 2018) cut-paper mixed-media style adds multiple layers to the narrative. The vibrant collage scenes feature flying birds (Mary always wanted to be as free as her winged friends) and squiggles on book pages that were indecipherable to her. Gradually, those squiggles morph into words, and readers will be as ecstatic as Mary when letters begin to appear, and the expressive faces and jewel-toned illustrations will inspire repeated readings. A lovely, inspirational picture-book biography about beating the odds and achieving your dreams. Grades 1-3. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Mary Walker, who learned to read at the age of 116, is introduced to young readers in this lovingly illustrated picture book. Born into slavery in Alabama, Mary Walker was not allowed to learn to read. When the Emancipation Proclamation outlawed slavery, she was 15. She was later gifted a Bible, which she couldn't read, but she kept it and made marks in it when her children were born. She worked hard and took care of her family and kept postponing her goal of learning to read. But she outlived her family, including a son who died at the age of 94. In 1963, she enrolled in a literacy program. "Could someone her age learn to read? She didn't know, but by God, she was going to try." By 1969 she had learned to read, been certified the nation's oldest student (twice), received the key to the city of Chattanooga, and had her birthday celebrated by the city to recognize her achievement. While the author's note mentions that some of the details that round out the text are invented, the most amazing facts of this story are the ones that are documented. Mary Walker was a living connection to a history people wanted to forget, and her indomitable spirit comes across beautifully in this book. Caldecott honoree Mora's (Thank You, Omu!, 2018) collages endear Walker to readers, each spread creating an intriguing scene of textures and layers. Enjoy this book with every child you know; let Mary Walker become a household name. (selected bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-9) Copyright Kirkus 2019 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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