Angela Johnson has a beautiful way of taking a slice of life and creating a text that children connect with. I enjoy using her books with children, as they can see themselves being able to write stories like her. Angela Johnson has taken a snapshot in time on the historical day of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s freedom speech in the book, A Sweet Smell of Roses. This poetic narrative is unique by shedding light that children also marched for their rights.
“But the men and women we commonly hear about are not the only ones who took action against injustice and oppression. For each of the names that we know, there are tens of thousands that we do not. And some of those overlooked names belong to children. A Sweet Smell of Roses is a tribute to them. (author’s note from Angela Johnson)”
The illustrations have been designed with pencils, black and white drawings. On each page, Eric Velasquez adds a bit of red coloring on the ribbon, roses, or the United States flag. I’m not a great interpreter of art, but the red makes me think of contrast. The roses are beautiful yet not without it’s thorns. I would envision having a conversation with your students about the symbolism created in the text. As Ellin Oliver Keene has shared in To Understand, our children often have deeper understanding when given the opportunity to think beyond surface comprehension. If you use the book, I would love to know what discussion arises.
Savorings for reading and in writing for A Sweet Smell of Roses:
- Repeating line – “the sweet smell of roses“
- Book ending the text
- One Day historical event – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech
- Each refrain repeats
- Poetic narrative