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Alec’s Primer
Mildred Pitts Walter; Larry Johnson, illus.



Vermont Folklife Center Children's Book Series

Vermont Folklife Center
2005 • 32 pp. Fully illustrated (color) 10 1/4 x 8 1/4"
Children's Fiction / African-American Studies / Literacy


$15.95 Hardcover, 978-0-916718-20-6



The power of this escape story, which is based on true events, is in the realistic detail about a child under slavery and in the... [continued in Reviews below]”—Booklist

A rare first-hand account of the power of literacy in a freed slave’s life

As a young boy born into slavery in Virginia, Alec Turner was forbidden to learn to read. Naturally he was frightened when Zephie, his owner's granddaughter, first offered to teach him, but she told him that if he learned to read, he could become a free man. As Alec mastered the alphabet from a small primer, Zephie lit in him a spark of hope, which became a flame.

Alec’s Primer is based on the true story of Alec Turner (1845-1923), who learned to read and, eventually, just as Zephie predicted, became a free man. Traveling to Vermont where he established his home and became a landowner, Alec kept his cherished primer with him throughout his life. Years later, Alec's daughter Daisy told his dramatic tale of defiance and endurance to the Vermont Folklife Center. Mildred Pitts Walter and Larry Johnson have transformed Alec’s powerful story into an engrossing picture book that affords young readers an authentic lens through which to view history.

Reviews / Endorsements

“The power of this escape story, which is based on true events, is in the realistic detail about a child under slavery and in the storytelling that passes on the history. Alec is frightened when the Virginia plantation owner’s granddaughter wants to teach him to read. But, with the girl’s help, he secretly studies the primer—until the day the brutal owner discovers him. She slashes his face, and his blood drips onto the book. He takes the primer with him when he escapes to join the Northern army, and it remains with him when he later becomes a landowner in Vermont. Eventually, his daughter tells his story, and she gives the bloodstained primer to the Vermont Folklore Center, which has published this book. Walter’s spare, dramatic words and Johnson’s stirring double-page paintings present a glimpse of the history in a brutal world: the child’s intense fear; his bond with his mother and with his blond friend; and, finally, his triumph.”Booklist



Sat, 2 Dec 2017 12:01:36 -0500