Molly Bannaky

Molly Bannaky

by Alice McGill, Chris K. Soentpiet (Illustrator)
Reprint, ©2009, ISBN: 9780547076768
Trade Paperback, 32 pages
Current Retail Price: $6.99
Not in stock

A beautiful book about Molly Bannaky, a woman who married a slave and became Benjamin Banneker's grandmother.

After escaping death on the gallows and working for seven years as an indentured servant, Molly Walsh staked her claim to a piece of land in Maryland, and there she fell in love with an African slave. How rare it was for a woman to claim her own land. Even rarer was for her to marry a slave. Yet Molly persevered and prospered, and with her new husband, Bannaky, she turned a one-room cabin in the wilderness into a thriving one-hundred-acre farm. One day she had the pleasure of writing her new grandson's name in her cherished Bible: Benjamin Banneker . . .


From Publishers Weekly

This sketchy, ultimately unfocused picture book introduces the spirited British exile who would become grandmother to Benjamin Banneker, the first black man to publish an almanac. After a cow knocks over a pail of milk, Molly, a 17-year-old dairy maid, must go on trial for theft—a crime punishable by death in 1683 England. However, because she can read the Bible, the court spares her life and instead deports her to America as an indentured servant. McGill effectively portrays Molly's determination when her servitude ends and she stakes her legal claim to farmland: "That a lone woman should stake land was unheard of, but Molly's new neighbors saw the way she jutted out her chin." However, the narrative glosses over the evolution of Molly's relationship with Bannaky, an enslaved African she buys to help her work her land, as well as any social complications that may have arisen when she falls in love with Bannaky and later marries him. The abrupt conclusion conveniently introduces Benjamin Banneker and circles back to Molly's life-saving gift of literacy (she is shown teaching her grandson to read). A historical note fills in a few gaps in the story with some additional information about Molly Bannaky and Benjamin Banneker. Unfortunately, neither the note nor the story explains how the surname changed from Bannaky to Banneker. Soentpiet's watercolors span scenes of both public pageantry and private moments, but seem uncharacteristically stiff and undramatic. For example, the climactic spilt milk scene is left to readers' imagination. In addition, the illustrations of Molly are inconsistent; she looks almost like a different person from one spread to the next. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) 
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 2-4-The oversized format and stunning watercolor paintings turn this fictionalized biography of the grandmother of Benjamin Banneker into an exciting visual experience. In clear, straightforward prose, McGill tells the story of an English dairymaid sent to the gallows for accidentally spilling "his lordship's milk," but saved because she could read from the Bible. She is exiled to America where she serves seven years as an indentured servant in Maryland. When finally granted her freedom, Molly Walsh stakes her claim and starts a farm, attempting to grow tobacco, but soon realizes that she needs help. She purchases an African slave, Bannaky, vowing to treat him well and to set him free once her land is cleared. The two grow to love one another and break Colonial law by marrying. The story then jumps to the next generation and ends with Molly teaching her grandson Benjamin to read and telling him of his proud heritage. A historical note fills in some additional details. The large, double-page spreads throughout, in which Soentpiet brilliantly uses space, tone, texture, and color, particularly in lighting up portions of each painting, bring depth and drama to the text. The lush green of tobacco leaves; the dark blue of ship, water, and sky; and the pervasive glow of candles, fires, and sunsets augment subtle symbols in composition and vivid characterization communicated through body language and facial expression. A good story in a fabulous artistic package.
Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY 
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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