Goodreads: Loretta Little Looks Back
Source: Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review
Published: September 2020
Three children narrate their experiences growing up under the sharecropping system from 1927 to 1968. Illustrated by Caldecott honoree Brian Pinkney.
Loretta Little Looks Back is a moving account of one family’s history from sharecropping to mobilizing to help people register to vote. Spanning the years from 1927-1968, it begins with Loretta’s account of picking cotton and ends with her niece Aggie B’s experiences with SNCC and the Civil Rights Movement. Bridging their stories is Loretta’s brother Roly, a boy who likes to move slowly and take his time. His daughter’s boldness, however, will show him that, sometimes, the time to take action is now. Told in a multimedia format with spoken word poetry, first-person narratives inspired by oral history, and stage directions, Loretta Little Looks Back is an immersive story that asks the readers to sit back, listen, and learn.
The narration is one of the most powerful elements of the book, bringing Loretta, Roly, and Aggie B’s stories to life through their distinctive voices. Each one gives their own perspective on how racism affects their lives, from Loretta’s days spent picking cotton for a man who never honors his agreements to Roly’s inability to make his farm successful, due to vengeful neighbors, to Aggie’s determination that unjust laws will not stop her from registering her family and friends to vote. Though they face many hardships, each one perseveres in the best way they know how, ultimately making the story one of hope and personal triumph. Readers will be inspired the characters’ strength and determination, as well as their love and care for one another.
Andrea Davis Pinkey presents an important story that focuses on a little-taught moment of U.S. history, the Jim Crow era. Readers of historical fiction will want to pick up this book to learn more about the lives of Black Americans during this time period. The end note explains that the book is based on real events, inspired by interviews and oral histories given about individuals’ experiences under the sharecropping system. References to real historical figures and events add to the educational aspect of the work. Readers who want to know more about these figures can refer to the end matter, which includes several historical notes as well as a bibliography for further reading.
Loretta Little Looks Back delivers a unique reading experience that will draw readers into Loretta, Roly, and Aggie B’s story. The heartbreak of living under a system designed to keep them down is palpable in their words, but so are their everyday delights and triumphs. Readers searching for a historical fiction sure to have an impact will want to pick up Andrea Davis Pinkey’s work.