An Exceptional Text

Reading books brings much pleasure to me, but sharing a great story with children and teachers is my delight.  I read lots of books; some I like, others I don’t, some teach lessons and then … some move me as a reader.  When I read a book that moves my heart and makes me think deeper, it is a treasure!  Priscilla and the Hollyhocks is my find today.  Wow!  Knowing that Priscilla existed deepens the story.  I can’t get it out of my mind!

Priscilla and the Hollyhocks by Anne Broyles is a book that amazed me as a reader.  It  is based on historical events.  The book jacket stated that Anne Broyles  “discovered Priscilla’s story while researching the Cherokee Trail of Tears for a young adult novel she was writing.”

The story begins with Priscilla’s mother being sold away when she ‘s young, approximately five.  Then, she begins working in the Big House by age six.  One visitor to the plantation talked with Priscilla and was kind.  His name was Basil Silkwood.  He didn’t agree with slavery.  By age 10, her master dies and she is bought by a new owner:  a Cherokee family.  Priscilla finds comfort in the hollyhocks she has planted at the new place.

During her time with the Cherokee family, America was expanding and began to round up the Indians.  The Cherokee family was forced to move.  They were “rounded up like animals” and forced to walk the “Trail of Tears.”  Priscilla went too.  After several months, they were passing through a town, when Priscilla miraculously happened to see Mr. Silkwood on a hotel porch.  She called to him and Mr. Silkwood asked about her.

Later that evening, Basil came to her Cherokee master.  “Massa Silkwood handed the Cherokee a bag of gold that held my freedom.”  He took her home and then set her free, adopting her into his family of fifteen children.  “Home we went to a family who claimed me slave not longer, daughter once more.”  Incredible!

The author’s note sheds more light on the background events shared in the story.  I know my eyes will look upon Hollyhock’s with a new appreciation.

Priscilla and the Hollyhocks tells a story too often ignored or overlooked – a story of how the west was not won but captured.  Reading about Priscilla’s remarkable life makes all our hearts a bit warmer while filling our heads with a much-needed piece of American history.”  – Nikki Giovanni, poet

Symbolism of hope/love/home:  Interweaving hollyhocks –

  • The one item that Priscilla loved and remained unchanging in an unsettling environment was the hollyhocks.  She carried the seeds with her to each new place she went and found comfort being near the plants.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Priscilla and the Hollyhocks:

  • Synthesize:  What can we learn from this story?  How does it affect us now?  We must guard against prejudices and be like Basil Silkwood, seeing worth in a person.
  • Lead – emotional, “Freedom filled my dreams, but I was born a slave’s child.”
  • Word choice – mirrored the mood; yoke, pined
  • Inference – “my insides was a’quiverin.”
  • Varied punctuation including semi-colon and colon –

(Warsaw Public Library)

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