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More Than Anything Else
Marie Bradby
illustrated by Chris K. Soentpiet

Though nine-year-old Booker labors at the saltworks every day with his father and older brother, he wants more than anything else to read. The desire grows as he sees another man reading a newspaper aloud to others in their village. He can picture himself reading and teaching others to read.

When Booker tells his mother how much he wants to read, she somehow obtains a primer for him. At first he is delighted. He learns to print the letters, but the mystery of their song escapes him. He knows no one in post-Civil War West Virginia who can read.

Desperately, he seeks the newspaper reader. When he finds him, the man explains the song of the alphabet, fulfilling Booker's biggest dream.

Marie Bradby tells the story of the young Booker T. Washington in first person. She evokes Booker's yearnings powerfully. She uses rich language, both lyrical and practical, though the vocabulary is probably on a second- or third-grade reader's level. Younger students will enjoy the language and the pictures.

Chris K. Soentipiet's well-researched paintings complement the text beautifully. He communicates both the yearning and the joy in rich color and realistic style.

Especially in an age when many children have trouble reading, Bradby touches on a yearning that children can relate to. If the teacher takes the time to describe Booker's later accomplishments and his lifelong efforts to teach others, she may encourage a child who is discouraged to continue trying to learn.

More Than Anything Else was a Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee for 1997-98. It is Bradby's first book and Soentpiet's third.

More Than Anything Else

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