Review of Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement
by Angela Joy; illus. by Janelle Washington
Primary, Intermediate    Roaring Brook    64 pp.    g
8/22    978-1-250-22095-0    $19.99

This powerful picture-book biography reverently portrays the life of Mamie Till-Mobley (1921–2003), whose defiant act of bravery following the 1955 murder of her son, Emmett, brought a spiritual essence to—and helped ignite—the civil rights movement. Joy’s (Black Is a Rainbow Color, rev. 1/20) lyrical free-verse narrative opens on August 31, 1955, when “the sheriff set out to dig a grave…to hide the crime in the mud of Mississippi…But Mamie did the harder thing. She said, ‘No. You send my son home.’” The text then goes back to Mamie’s childhood outside of Chicago, where the family moved from Mississippi during the Great Migration. She excelled in school, graduating at the top of her class, and later married Louis Till. They had a baby, Emmett, whose bout with polio left him with a stutter. One summer, relatives invited Emmett to spend time with them in Mississippi. Mamie said no, fearful of the Jim Crow South. Although she finally agreed, still, “Sometimes a mother gets a feeling, an ache deep down in her soul—a warning.” The heart of the story is what happens following Emmett’s brutal murder. Mamie’s resolve not to let her son be forgotten leads her to a crusade of social justice and advocacy—not only for Emmett but for “sons and daughters still living.” Washington’s dramatic paper-cut art, featuring bold black-and-white silhouettes and figures on brown backgrounds with blue, brown, and red tissue-paper accents, perfectly captures the courage and dignity of the subject. Rich back matter includes author and illustrator notes, a playlist, a timeline, and a bibliography.

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Pauletta Brown Bracy
Pauletta Brown Bracy is professor of library science at North Carolina Central University. She is chair of the 2015-2017 Coretta Scott King Book Awards committee and serves on the 2017 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards committee.

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