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STEAMBOAT SCHOOL by Deborah Hopkinson

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Illustrator:  Ron Husband

Steamboat School was inspired by a true story.  It took place in Saint Louis, Missouri, before and around 1847.  Reverend John Berry Meachum had a strong desire to educate children in the years prior to the Civil War.

His own life was one of hardship and struggle as Mr. Meachum was born into slavery in 1789.  He worked to buy his own freedom and his father’s by the time he was 21.  He journeyed to St. Louis looking for his wife and children.  He worked as a carpenter and cooper (barrel maker) to earn enough to purchase their freedom, as well as a residence for his now-free family.

By 1826, he had been ordained a Baptist minister and became pastor of St. Louis’ First African Baptist Church.  While there, he began teaching black children in the basement of the church.  (In the true story, he taught free and enslaved blacks, children and adults alike.)  The school was called “The Tallow Candle School.”  In 1847, with racial tensions mounting, Missouri enacted a new law forbidding “Negroes or mulattoes” to be instructed in reading and writing.  His school was shut down.  But Reverend Meacham did not give up.

Early one morning, under the cover of darkness, he gathered his students and rowed them out into the Mississippi River to a steamboat in which he held class.  This school has been called the “Floating Freedom School.”  The river was considered Federal property, thus under federal jurisdiction.  Children and adults continued to learn because of the courage of this man.  His students grew in courage, as well, while learning to read and write.  One such student became a consul to Liberia.

This book has two pages at the end with actual historical events and background which aided in the writing of this historical fiction.  It is an excellent story to learn more about slavery and the freedom that came through education.  The courage of a single man made a difference in many lives.  Some 300 Blacks went through one or both schools of Reverend Meacham.  There are resource pages with websites and books to further one’s learning of the Meachams and of this period.

The Meacham home was part of the Underground Railroad.  In 2001, the Mary Meacham Freedom Crossing became the first site in Missouri to be recognized as part of the United States of America’s National Park Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

Age Range:  3 – 5 Years

Author

Deborah Hopkinson is the author of more than forty books for young readers including picture books, short fiction, and nonfiction.  Most of them are history-related.  Sky Boys, How They Built the Empire State Building won an ALA Notable and Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor book, Apples to Oregon won the Golden Kite Award and Spur Storytelling Award, and in 2013 she received both a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction honor and a Robert F. Sibert honor for Titanic: Voices from the Disaster.  She has won many Oregon awards for a number of her other books, too.

Deborah Hopkinson was born in Massachusetts, lived in many cities, and now resides in West Linn, Oregon (near Portland).  She can be found @ deborahhopkinson.com and @ https://twitter.com/Deborahopkinson

Illustrator

Ron Husband worked at Disney Feature Animation for thirty-eight years and holds the distinction of being the first African American Supervising Animator at Walt Disney Studios.  He has animated many well-known Disney films including The Lion King, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Fantasia 2000, Pocahontas, and Atlantis.  He illustrates children’s books and activity books.  He recently authored his own book about drawing, Quick Sketching, published by Focal Press.  He has retired from Disney, but continues to share his talents through workshops and speaking engagements.

Ron lives in San Dimas, California, with his wife. They have three children and three granddaughters.  Find him @ ronhusband.blogspot.com and on Google Plus @ https://plus.google.com/108206495971534759760

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Book Information:

ISBN-13: 9781423121961
Publisher:  Disney Press
Publication date: 06/07/2016
Pages: 40
Product dimensions: 10.30(w) x 11.50(h) x 0.40(d)
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8 thoughts on “STEAMBOAT SCHOOL by Deborah Hopkinson

  1. This sounds like a really good book. What great courage he had to keep working to find ways to be able to teach so many people to read. Linda, thanks for sharing this at the #LMMLinkup. Blessings!

    Like

  2. What a hero! I feel so inspired by his tenacity and ingenuity! I hope to share this one with my kids someday soon. Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com this week!
    Tina

    Like

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