"My grandmama Ola says that yellow is the first color she ever remembers seeing. It was just there, she says." - Toning the Sweep
If you've been to the library, you've likely had one of our library staff emphasize the importance of not only reading but that reading also builds empathy. Reading the words on a page from a voice that is not your own is likely to evoke emotion and understanding. These words might even evoke a sense of familiarity that reminds you of home. That is exactly what this book does for me.
Toning the Sweep by Angela Johnson follows fourteen-year-old Emmie who begins by writing a letter to her grandmother, Ola, who is originally from Alabama but now lives in the desert of California. The thing is that her grandmother is terminally ill, and her time is limited. Emmie and her mother, Diane, travel to the bright, yellow desert to help Ola pack up her belongings and move into their home in Ohio. All the while, Emmie, with a video camera in hand, aims to better understand her family's past, long-hidden truths, and (most of all) her grandmother.
While it can be argued that there are many important themes shared throughout this book, the most important theme is family. This is a theme that seems to be so often shared in many books, however, the simplicity and humanity that is captured between the three women in this particular book is unlike many. It's the honesty, the fighting of feelings that one tries hard to deny, the joy, the pain, the unconditional love.....It's all about family.
Although this is a title that can be found in our children's collection, I very much needed this book. It will be five years in November since my grandmother, Adelina, passed away, and I still struggle with this loss. I couldn't make it pass the very first line of the book, without shedding a few (a lot) of tears. The story begins with, "Grandmama Ola says that yellow is the first color she ever remembers seeing. It was just there, she says." My grandmother was the same way. She LOVED the color yellow, especially yellow roses, which my family held during her funeral. Yes, she loved the color yellow and yellow roses, but most importantly she loved her family. She loved me. I loved her.
Regardless of age, this Coretta Scott King Award-winning book beautifully captures the meaning of human connection and how these connections leave an everlasting impact. Whether the people you are connected to are present or no longer here, they are and will always be part of you. Especially during a time when we might not be able to physically be with the ones that we love right now and distance keeps us miles apart, we always have connection. We always have love.
Toning the Sweep
New York ,NY : Scholastic Paperbacks First (24--14) Edition, 1994.
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