Cover image for A strawbeater's thanksgiving
A strawbeater's thanksgiving
Smalls, Irene.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Little, Brown, 1998.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 29 cm
Determined to be the strawbeater during the corn shucking party, Jess, a small young slave boy, wrestles a bigger, stronger boy for the honor.
Reading Level:
570 Lexile.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Oversize
PIC. BK. Juvenile Current Holiday Item Childrens Area-Holiday
PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Childrens Area-Holiday
PIC. BK. Juvenile Current Holiday Item Holiday
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Holiday
PIC. BK. Juvenile Current Holiday Item Holiday

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During the time of slavery, the men, women, and children who had worked so hard bringing in the harvest were sometimes allowed one night to celebrate the completion of their wearisome tasks. This story takes place during one of those nights. Jess has always wanted to be the special boy who is allowed to help the fiddler during the corn-shucking party. He wants to be the one who gets to keep time by beating on the old man's fiddle with a pair of sturdy straws. However, wishing is one thing and making sure your wish comes true is something else. Irene Smalls's story of one boy's determination to succeed has been glowingly illustrated by Melodye Rosales, and the combination of their talents creates a vivid vignette of a people's strength and spirit during the terrible days of slavery.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Ages 7^-10. In a story based on slave narratives, Smalls focuses on a description of a corn-husking party, when slaves were allowed one night of celebration after the harvest. In late November, the slaves join together from surrounding farms to shuck corn, to eat, and, finally, to dance. Each year, a straw beater is selected--a young boy who stands behind the fiddler with a pair of straws to beat the fiddle strings like a drum. The means of selection is a wrestling match. Seven-year-old Jess is determined to triumph over Nathaniel, who's always been chosen as straw beater. But Nathaniel is twice Jess' size, and the odds seem a mite slim. On the big night, Jess is thrown twice, and Sis Wisa, Jess' mom who watches from the sidelines, winces. But it's not over till it's over, and in one last-ditch effort, Jess grabs Nathaniel and hangs on for all he's worth. Finally, someone in the crowd shouts, "Can we git to the dancin'?" and the fiddler picks Jess. The warm, glowing illustrations contribute much to the impact of this remarkable story--a story that celebrates the determination of one small boy. --Shelley Townsend-Hudson

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-5-In this tale based on slave narratives, Smalls presents little-known traditions and unfamiliar figures of speech. At the annual corn-shucking party, seven-year-old Jess longs to be the "strawbeater" who, according to the author's note, "stands behind a fiddler, reaches around his left shoulder, and beats on the strings while the fiddle is being played, in the manner of a snare drum." He must wrestle Nathaniel, a bigger boy, for the honor, and when he is chosen for his tenacity rather than his brawn, the festivities begin. There is dancing, singing, good-natured competition, and plenty of food. The story line is somewhat stilted and would require some historical background to be fully appreciated. Rosales's vibrant, full-color oil paintings carry the emotion and spirit of the day. The bright, bold reds and browns add a sense of power and strength. This is not as satisfying as Patricia and Fredrick McKissack's Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters (Scholastic, 1994), but it helps to fill out the life stories of slaves and presents an interesting glimpse of a harvest celebration of the period.-Beth Tegart, Oneida City Schools, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.