Tuesday, April 15, 2008

...and everyone wore a hat...

Dream Lucky, by Roxanne Orgill
in stores April 22nd.

Roxanne Orgill breathes life into the lines of a historian’s notes. I can see the influence from her children’s historical picture books, but this helps to enhance her book. Dream Lucky is a wonderfully imaginative way to convey the culture, the community, and most importantly, the color barrier that had yet to be broken during this period of history prior to WWII.
This book reminded me of sitting at the dinner table with my parents, sharing stories of their life growing up, “in the olden days.” They always laughed when my siblings or I would call it that. But looking back and reading this book, I’m so glad to have gleaned those memories. Dream Lucky presents snapshots in time of the way it was, the way people who lived it, saw it. Anyone, who is a baby boomer, even a late boomer like myself can relate to the short vignettes in the book and recall what they were told as a child. If you lived during that time, Orgill will make you sway to the sounds of swing. Count Basie, Bennie, Billie, Ella and all the marvelous musicians of that era will echo in your ears as you read. The author periodically placed black and white photos throughout the book, which enhances your presence in that moment in time. You also hear the radio and see the family huddled around the box. Even though they can’t see anything, they stare listening silently so no sentence is missed. There was something for the whole family, Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats, The Lone Ranger, Burns and Allen, Orson Wells, and more.
What Orgill understands, from any teacher’s perspective, is that history doesn’t have to be an outdated, inaccurate textbook with facts, dates and dry content. That is assuming the schools have enough money to purchase textbooks for every student. We are alive when we are making history. Her approach to history is enjoyable, believable and readable, as it can and should be. You gain the knowledge from the point of view of a ubiquitous insider, who is witness to the events as they unfold during 1936-1938. You stand with Count Basie, Joe Louis, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Jacob Lawrence and so many other African American people who worked where they couldn’t eat, shopped, where they couldn’t work and who had to put up with the laws of Jim Crow, who was alive and active in the south. The social reform movement for racial equality was just beginning to emerge under the leadership of Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Jr. No matter who you were during this period of history, there was tension and turmoil worldwide, and no one stateside including FDR wanted another World War. What everyone had at that time was their dreams and so they hoped they would “Dream Lucky.”
Roxanne Orgill is unique in her approach to historical writing and understands how to make it real. I highly recommend this exceptionally entertaining history and I know as you read it you will believe you are there.

If I Only Had a Horn (story about Louis Armstrong) I have read this book to my students in elementary school. They have also taken it out of the library to read independently. They really like it. It is enjoyed by all ages, but primarily grades 2-5.

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