HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: I Have Heard of a Land
Author: Joyce Carol Thomas
Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2000
ISBN-13: 978-0780799639 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0780799631 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0064436175 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0064436179 (Paperback)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 6-7 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Thomas, Joyce Carol. I Have Heard of a Land (published in 2000 by HarperCollins). “I have heard of a land Where the imagination has no fences Where what is dreamed one night Is accomplished the next day.” In the late 1880s, signs went up all around America that land was free in the Oklahoma territory to everyone: whites, blacks, men, and women alike. All one needed to stake a claim was hope, courage, strength, and perseverance. Thousands of pioneers, many of them African-Americans newly freed from slavery, headed west to carve out a new life in the Oklahoma soil. Drawing upon her own family’s history, National Book Award winner Joyce Carol Thomas has crafted an unforgettable anthem to these brave and determined people from America’s past by exploring the little-known experiences of African American pioneers who settled in Oklahoma during the late 1800s. Richly illustrated by Coretta Scott King Award honoree Floyd Cooper, I Have Heard of a Land is a glorious tribute to the African-American pioneer spirit.
Specifically, the book is a moving, poetic account of a brave black woman who stakes a claim “where the cottonwood trees are innocent Where the coyote’s call is a lullaby at night And the land runs on forever.” It offers a new perspective on an important era of our nation’s history by describing the natural beauty of a bold new frontier as well as the hopeful, strong, and passionate people who created new lives there and realized their dreams. Cooper’s signature grainy, dreamy oil-wash portraits of landscapes, dotted with trees, crops and cabins, glow in soft pink, yellow and brown hues. Publishers Weekly said, “Scenes of a girl soaring on a homemade swing, neighbors worshipping in the open air and building a log house are particularly uplifting” and calls it “a pleasant slice of historical fiction.” Children will definitely benefit by reading this colorful lesson in American history. While the characters in this book are African-American, the story is universal, and the values expressed are timeless and universal.