One of the many things I love about a good picture book is when I learn something new–whether its a person I hadn’t heard about or a time in history I knew little of, I love learning something new through the simplicity of a picture book. One of these more recent lovely occasions is through reading the book titled Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town by A. LaFaye.
This book is about a young girl named Dede who lives with her parents who are sharecroppers. They want to own their own land, but like many other African-Americans of that time, they are never able to get ahead. One day though, Dede notices a flyer that is looking for African-Americans to move to Kansas to develop and eventually own their own piece of land. Her family makes the decision to make that move, and during their first winter in Kansas, they meet the NiukaNska, or Children of the Middle Waters and develop a fellowship with them. In a few years’ time, the town of Nicodemus starts to develop, the family works hard and ends up owning their own place.
I love that this book takes place during the Reconstruction period, which is a time period I don’t feel is written about often. Additionally, although I myself live in the Midwest, I knew very little about Exodusters, who were African-Americans that migrated to the Midwest. Nicodemus, Kansas was an actual settlement that was created and inhabited by only African-Americans in the late 1800s–who knew? This book would be a great way to introduce kids to this period of time in our history. It’s straightforward, yet can still facilitate lots of discussion (especially through the details in the illustrations) about what was happening in our country during this time.
I would recommend this book for kids 3rd grade and up, in order for them to get a true understanding of what’s happening. Unless you’re from Nicodemus of course, then you and/or your child might have known all this history of course.