Welcome to day 8 of Ellen's Broom Blog tour.
I have the honor today to welcome Kelly Starling Lyons back to Of Thoughts and Words to share with us her latest picture book released just this month. Check out my review of Ellen's Broom here. Kelly is an amazing author and I feel blessed to be able to share in her excitement of her newest book! This book is about a young girl who braves a new future without losing her love and pride in her family's heritage. The story is set in the reconstruction era and Ellen teaches us all that some traditions are worth preserving! :)
As part of the blog tour, anyone who leaves a comment on any of Kelly's tour stops will be entered in a drawing for the grand prize - a signed poster of the Ellen's Broom cover and a decorated wedding broom from Stuart's Creations (www.stuartscreations.com). The winner will be drawn on January 16. So make a comment!!! Win that broom!
Now on to the interview!!! Kelly gives us insight into how her book, Ellen's Broom!!!
So Kelly, what inspired you to write Ellen’s Broom?
While researching family history in a North Carolina library, I came across a record that opened a new world to me. That document was the 1866 Cohabitation Register of Henry County, VA. In it, formerly enslaved couples listed their antebellum marriages and the names and ages of their children. I was moved deeply.
So many families were torn apart by slavery. Slave holders sold enslaved people - husbands and wives, parents and children -- away from each at will. After slavery ended, some people searched heartbroken for loved ones. But some, like the families in the register, finally saw the law reflect what they knew in their hearts: Their marriages mattered too.
Back then, I didn't know that document contained the seed of a picture book. But later, I shared that story with an editor at the Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. He told me I had a children's book in there. I went back to my room that evening and started imagining a girl growing up at that time.
I saw Ellen, a child whose parents jumped the broom to become husband and wife during slavery and then finally got a chance to celebrate that marriage being legally recognized during Reconstruction. I asked myself what that would mean to Ellen and her family. That's how Ellen's Broom came to be.
How important is keeping or passing on history and traditions?
It's essential. Without passing on history and traditions, they can be forgotten.
How exactly did you research the topic for your picture book?
After finding the cohabitation register and beginning the story, I realized I had a lot of work to do. I needed to learn more about the historical period in which the registration took place and the families living then. I read Freedmen's Bureau letters where officers described the way freedmen and women responded to the news that their marriages would be registered. I read slave narratives, especially those that referenced marriage. I also read a wonderful article by African American geneaology specialist, Reginald Washington, that talked about cohabitation registers. You can check it out here: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/spring/freedman-marriage-recs.html?template
Finally, after my story was completed, I shared the draft with historians to make sure it hit the mark.
What is the most important thing you would like your readers to gain from reading Ellen’s Broom?
I would like them to gain an appreciation for the love and faith that carried families like Ellen's through slavery and into the future. Daniel Minter did a beautiful job interpreting the story through his illustrations. You can see in their faces what having the opportunity to register their marriages meant to the couples and their children. I want readers to leave feeling inspired.
If Ellen were here with us today, what encouraging advice would she share?
She would say, "Never forget where you came from. That's part of what makes us who we are." You can't appreciate what you have without knowing what you came through to get it. She would encourage us to learn our history and pass it on.
Isn't Kelly just amaaaaaaaaaaazing!!?? And isn't Ellen just adorable!? :D I bet you all thought that was the end of the post :D
Well, guess what! There is a book giveaway to giveaway :D enter to win a copy of "Ellen's Broom," from Of Thoughts and Words!!!
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