Nonfiction Book Annotation
By: Angela Wilcox
By: Angela Wilcox
McKissack, P. & McKissack F. (1994). Christmas in the big house, Christmas in the quarters. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Author Creditability: The McKissacks visited several plantations where they researched and obtained information on different families and how they spent their Christmas’. They also got suggestions and support from the plantation owners and family members of today to help write this book.
Summary: This book is an informational picture storybook that uses the compare-contrast structure to depict the lifestyles of the plantation owners and the slaves during the Christmas of 1859. The McKissacks tell of how the slaves have to get the big house and the quarters ready for the big event. They do a wonderful job of showing how different a holiday was celebrated, at that time and region, among different races. They also include different poems, songs, and culture events that took place during Christmas time. This helps the reader to truly understand the events and emotions that revolved around Christmas time to both the slaves and the plantation owners in this region.
Most Important Access Features: This book contains a table of contents, notes-which seems to be similar to a glossary, author’s and illustrator’s notes, illustrations, and a bibliography. The Authors’ notes help to provide background information for the reader, telling where they are and what is taking place during this time era. The Illustrator’s notes let you know who and what plantations helped him in creating the illustrations for this book. The notes give more detailed information on vocabulary, events, people, customs of that time, etc. that are mentioned in the story. Lastly, there is a bibliography of texts that helped in the research and writing of this book.
Description of Illustrations: The illustrator, John Thompson, did a wonderful job at portraying Christmas for the slaves and the plantation owners’ families. In his Illustrator’s note, he tells about how he did research at the James River Plantations during the holiday season to get ideas for the illustrations in this book. The illustrations for this book are paintings done in acrylic and on a Strathmore five-ply kid-finish Bristol board. The first letter of each chapter contains an illuminated style of Tuscan Italian done in red. This was a type of ornamental typeface that was created in 1859.
Grade Level & Uses: Grades 4-8; I would use this book to teach about the customs and times of the 19th century, slaves, and plantations. The students could do a compare/contrast essay of how we celebrate Christmas to how people celebrated Christmas in the 19th century or even how the slaves celebrated compared to the plantaion owners.
Standards: 4th-8th grade language arts: 2. The student will apply strategies and skills to comprehend, respond to, interpret, or evaluate a variety of texts of increasing levels of length, difficulty, and complexity.
3. The student will express, communicate, evaluate, or exchange ideas effectively.
4. The student will apply standard English to communicate.
5th grade social studies: 1. Examine the historical development of the United States of America.
8th grade social studies: 3. Evaluate the impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on the United States.
Related Texts & How Related: These books could be used along with Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters to educate students on slavery and plantation life.
Daily Life in a Southern Plantation 1853 by Paul Erickson
Life on a Plantation by Bobbie Kalman
The Strength of These Arms: Life in the Slave Quarters by Raymond Bial
The Coretta Scott King Award
The Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children
Personal Response to Book: I found this book very eye opening and at times emotional. If one has not really studied slavery and understood what they had to go through among their families, this book could really help you understand. The way the McKissacks described both cultures in this book allows you to get a full understanding of what Christmas’ were like. I found it to be an educational, enjoyable, and a fast and easy read.