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These Hands

By Margaret H. Mason  

Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Spring 2011

ISBN 978-0-547-21566-2


In the 1950s and 60s, African-American workers in many of the bakery factories were not permitted to be mixers, because management feared that white people would not buy the bread if they discovered the bread dough had been touched by black hands.


I learned about this policy and the effect it had on bakery employees from an old friend and Bakers Union leader, Joe Barnett, whose voice still trembled 30 years later when he talked about the humiliation the workers endured at the bakery.


In THESE HANDS, a young boy learns about the things his grandfather used to be able to do, and not do, with his hands. In the process, young Joseph gains the assurance and confidence that his hands can do anything.  Anything in the world.


ALA Notable Book


SCBWI Golden Kite Honor for Picture Book Text


Charlotte Zolotow Highly Commended Title

Notable Books for a Global Society Award 


Sankei Children's Book Award (Japanese edition)


"For all the many titles that appear on segregation and protest for younger readers, this one stands tall not just for delving into a piece of labor history not previously covered, but for its ability to relate history with heart and resonance." (Picture book. 4-8)

— Kirkus, Starred Review


"...It's a moving study of multigenerational relationships and triumph over discrimination." Ages 4–8. (Mar.) 

Publishers Weekly


"This picture book based on oral history from the Civil Rights Movement abounds in the rich, concrete symbolism that young readers will understand and retain. The narration is poetically told in the African-American oratory style made famous by Rev. King, and Grandfather’s voice sets the tone, made strong through repetition... Expansive spreads in Cooper’s signature muted, earth-toned oil-wash style follow, chronicling what those hands did to confront that injustice: writing petitions, carrying signs." 

School Library Journal


"The story’s roots in rarely told history will widen the audience for this moving title to older readers, too."

— Hazel Rochman, Booklist


“Well worth reading at any time. . . . Simple but lyrical text and outstanding art worthy of any major award.”

BooksForKids blog, review 

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