Bad Library Mojo.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Princess has some bad library luck.. A few years ago she picked books from the childrens section at the public library that were graphic and disturbing in the way they discussed poaching. While I then and now appreciate the need to instill in children a love for the environment and for animals I was shocked at the graphic nature of the approach.

This week was another interesting choice. This time from the school library. Molly Bannaky is a great historical book that covers a very intense period in world history. It also covers a range of topics that blindsided me when I was reading my children this book as a bed time story- it is by no means five year old bedtime story material.

With in the first to pages a woman- a dairy maid was being brought to trial in 17th century England for theft relating to a cow knocking over a milk pail. I did learn that the penalty for theft during this period was death in the gallows (good to know right??- also great information for my kids to know right at bedtime.) I also learned that if an individual could read from the Bible he or she could not be put to death- also an interesting topic of discussion.

She was instead sentenced to seven years as indentured servant in the New World; incidentally Molly had no family to say good-bye too. She was taken by ship to the Colony of Maryland where she worked on a tobacco plantation- also an interesting way to introduce the concept of capitalism farming society.

Upon completion of her sentence Molly was given an ox, hoes, seeds, and a gun. Thankfully during her time as indentured servant she had become strong enough to manage a team of oxen so managing a farm on her own was with in the realm of possible. However, people had never heard of a woman staking her own claim to land before without a husband (shocking) but luckily her neighbors were kind and helped her.

Here is where the story again turns more than mildly inappropriate for a five year old. Molly read (again great skill to have)of a ship landing from Africa- a slave ship. Lovely. When reading this on my sofa at 8pm at night my heart sank- saddened that I would have to explain a very dark period and belief to my innocent daughter.

The illustrations on these pages are graphic. They show an African American man dressed in a loin cloth on an auction block wearing a neck shackle. It also depicts several men waiting in chains to be sold. How do you begin to explain this to a five year old?

Molly purchases a man, Bannaky- and takes him to her home where she treats him well (this is supposed to be a credit to her instead of just the way that a person treats another person). They eventually develop respect and understanding and that grows into love she freed him and they were married by a traveling pastor. This also was a teaching moment as a white woman could be forced into slavery for marrying a slave. Fortunately, Molly did not meet such a fate. They did have children- but sadly Bannaky died during their childhood (the illustration accompanying this page was a lovely image of a fresh grave). The children grew up and one girl married a slave who upon conversion to Christianity was freed. They and their children were all taught to read from the Bible.

These children (Molly's grandchildren) went on to make several lasting impacts on society. One helped plan Washington, D.C. and corresponded with then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson about the unconscionable concept of slavery- Thomas Jefferson agreed with him. All of her grandchildren were educated in mathematics, sciences- especially Astronomy, and literature.

While the ending is 'happy' the story line is intense. By no means do I advocate censorship- especially regarding such an important and influential story and history- but I would like a little forewarning so that these books are not bedtime material.


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