Book Review: Sherley Anne Williams’ Working Cotton

Posted April 19, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews, Children's

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Sherley Anne Williams’ Working Cotton

Working Cotton


Sherley Anne Williams

autobiography, picture book in Hardcover edition that was published by HMH Books for Young Readers on September 15, 1992 and has 32 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Illustrator: Carole Byard

A standalone picture book that reflects Williams’ early life as a child in the cotton fields in Fresno. In 1993, Working Cotton won the Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustrator Honor. And I thoroughly understand why!

My Take

There’s a rhythmic quality to Williams’ words as she remembers her childhood, as she pulls you in with that dreamy quality, in to Shelan’s world, to show you what a day in the fields was like. The sense of competition between the sisters, that need to be like each other and yet not. Especially, *laughing*, as Shelan wishes to both grow up and be young enough to sit at the end of the row and watch the baby.

The manner in which Williams manipulates the grammar and sentence structure is another way to pull you in and indicates Shelan’s educational level.

I know Byard’s illustrations are in acrylics — it says so in the front of the book! But there’s a feel of pastels about these intense colors, the soft smudgy feel of the graphics that make you feel the seriousness of it as well as that dreamy feel of Williams’ memories.

It’s a beautifully illustrated and written story of a day in the life of a family picking cotton.

The Story

It’s cold that early in the morning, although the day will heat up fast enough, Shelan notes.

I’m growing up, but not enough yet to have my own sack while Daddy picks cotton so fast that you never see him do it while Mamma sings to while the day away.

The Characters

Shelan is the young girl, the storyteller; her sisters include Ruise, Jesmarie, and baby Leanne. Mamma and Daddy are the kind of people who should have children. God knows, that’s rare enough!

The Cover and Title

The cover has an Impressionist feel to it with its hazy cotton, blue summer sky, and Shelan in her turquoise green dress and brown jacket. The title is in a white serif font with an orange outline.

The title is what the day is all about, Working Cotton.