Thursday, June 19, 2008


Mitchell Margaree King. 1993. UNCLE JED’S BARBERSHOP. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671769693

The story happens in the early 19th century in the Southern America. Uncle Jed, Jean’s best friend, is the only black moving barber in the county. He comes to visit his customer with very little pay everyday and see Jean every Wednesday night. Jean has fun playing pretend hair cut and listening to his dream about his own barbershop, and what is the plan about his dream. Even though he is frustrated by unexpected events, Jean’s medical bills and the Great Depression put off his dream, he never gives his dream up and starts saving all over again. By the age of seventy-nine, he finally has his own barbershop and all people from the county come to celebrate with him and be his customers on the date of his birthday.

This book not only involves that characters portray a variety of physical, social and emotional attributes, but also depict relatives and friendships between two generations and dream accomplishment. It is easy to find the cultural markers of African American in this book, such as children’s hair styles, a male’s pants, patch quilts and house style in the South.

Mitchell does not directly depict people’s lives in the South. She uses the fist person of the protagonist, a little girl, to mildly describe the life people live, and their political status in the South, such that “most people were sharecroppers and travel about twenty miles into town to the hospital by wagon” and “in the hospital, we had to go to the colored waiting room.” The most outstanding part in this book is the description about relationship between Uncle Jed, and the protagonist in contents and illustrations. Mitchell does not disclose the protagonist’s name until Uncle Jed state that “he couldn’t let anything happen to his Sarah Jean” to show how important Jean for Jed. In the cover, it shows that Jed very carefully and seriously pretend cuts Jean’s hair and how happy and satisfied Jean is. Every picture of Jed and Jean is full with happiness and joy besides the one Jed with frown face stand in front of Jean’s bed and is anxious about her illness.

The majority settings are very simple involving with African American lives about desolated farm scenery and plain indoor furnishings at that time. Instead of using language dialect, the author use narrative format to display the story; therefore, it is difficult to find black dialects in this story.

Publishers Weekly: “Convivial descriptions of family life are enhanced by Ransome’s spirited oil paintings.”

ALA Notable Children's Books
CBC/NCSS Notable Children's Book in Social Studies
Coretta Scott King Award Honor Book
Horn Book Fanfare
IRA Children's Book Award Honor

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