Mama’s Window, by Lynn Rubright
Publisher: Lee and Low books
Reviews and feedback to Mama’s Window.
School Library Journal – August, 2005
Mary N. Oluonye , Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
James Earle “Sugar” Martin’s mother has been dead for six months when this story begins. By her request, he is now living with her brother, a disabled loner. The two of them reside in a one-room shack in the Mississippi Delta and Uncle Free makes his living by fishing the waters of the swamp. He doesn’t speak much, and when he does, he sounds gruff and short. Yet, as time goes by, his guidance is firm, gentle, kind, and patient. The story is loosely based on the childhood experiences of Reverend Owen H. Whitfield, an African-American sharecropper, preacher, and union organizer in Arkansas during the 1930s. At the heart of the story is the fact that Sugar’s mother had taken on extra work to save money specifically for a stained-glass window when the new church is built. When funds fall short, the building committee decides to use the funds to buy bricks instead. Sugar’s keen disappointment and his abiding faith in his mother’s dream eventually cause church members to rethink what is important. Rubright’s sentences are descriptive, yet never overwhelming; paragraphs are kept short, and the pace is swift-all elements that draw in even the most reluctant readers. The book is simple in style and layout, with plenty of white space and a few small black-and-white illustrations. This touching tale of a boy’s commitment to his mother, underscored by the powerful understanding and closeness that develops between him and his uncle, makes this a wonderful first purchase.
Kirkus Review of MAMA’S WINDOW:
July 1, 2005 issue
After his mother’s death, Sugar lives with his Uncle Free in the fearsome, murky swamps of the Mississippi delta. During the last years of her life, Sugar’s mother had scrimped and saved in order to provide a stained glass window for a new church. When Sugar discovers
that the money has been used for bricks, he is devastasted, but determined to fulfill her legacy.
At the church’s dedication, the stained glass window is in place, thanks to Uncle Free in the guise of an anonymous donor.
Rubright has crafted a sweet tale of love, faith and perservance. A strong sense of time and place are evident in both the lovely imagery of the narration and in the cadence and syntax of the characters’ speech. An afterword by Patricia McKissack explains that the story is loosely based on events in the life of civil rights activist Owen Whitfield. Uplifting. (Fiction, 8-12).
Review of MAMA’S WINDOW: The MO-TELL Missouri Storytelling Register, June, 2005
Lynn Rubright’s new book Mama’s Window is historical fiction, inspired by some incidents in the early life of Owen Whitfield, the courageous and charismatic organizer of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. How does one acquire the courage to stand up for what’s right? Some answers can be found in the life lessons taught by Uncle Free (the name says so much): facing one’s fears, using sense, forgiving others, working hard. Perhaps the most important lesson of all came from Sugar’s mother’s legacy: people need dreams. This book is compelling reading, worth revisiting for new lessons.
Julie Burchette, award winning fifth grade teacher, from a letter to Lynn Rubright:
The kids LOVED the book. We got through almost all of it and they were going to go to Webster Library and request it so they could finish it. It is wonderful and thank you so much for coming and for the autographed copy of the book. Two of my girls were so interested in the sharecroppers that they wanted me to get them more info!
Syd Lieberman, author, educator and storyteller:
Mama’s Window, Lynn Rubright’s touching coming-of-age tale, takes place in a Mississippi Delta swamp. The story concerns Sugar, an eleven-year-old boy. After his mother dies, Sugar moves in with his gruff Uncle Free. At first, Sugar fears the swamp and doesn’t like his uncle or the life of a fisherman. But by the end of the novel, Sugar has come to appreciate the swamp and to love his uncle. Rubright’s long career as a storyteller and her visits to the Delta help create a setting whose lushness springs from the page. You can almost smell the damp in Rubright’s description of the cypress trees whose ” little knobby knees jutted out of the water around the splayed trunks of trees,” whose “roots reached like wooden tentacles down into the black water.” Even more important, Mama’s Window inspires readers by showing the value of dreams and the redeeming power of love As a former English teacher, I could see innumerable ways to use this book for discussions and writing assignments. Kids and adults alike will love it.