Belton, Sandra 1939- (Sandra Yvonne Belton)
Belton, Sandra 1939- (Sandra Yvonne Belton)
Born March 1, 1939, in Bluefield, WV; daughter of Alphonso David (a physician) and Alice Elizabeth Belton; married James Sidney Hammond (a music teacher and choral director); children: Allen Douglass. Education: Howard University, B.A., 1960; attended Boston Conservatory of Music, 1962; George Washington University, M.A., 1967.
Home—Chicago, IL. Office—Scott Foresman, 1900 E. Lake Ave., Glenview, IL 60025. Agent—Edite Kroll, 20 Cross St., Saco, ME 04072.
Children's book author and editor. District of Columbia Public Schools, Washington, DC, teacher at West Elementary School, 1964-69; Scott, Foresman, Glenview, IL, associate editor, 1969-72, executive editor, 1978—; Lyons & Carnahan, Chicago, IL, editor, 1972-74; Encyclopaedia Britannica Educational Corp., Chicago, senior editor; City Colleges of Chicago, reading teacher, 1976-78.
Delta Sigma Theta.
Young People's Literature Award, Friends of American Writers, and finalist, Children's Books of Distinction Award, both 1994, both for From Miss Ida's Porch; Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies, National Council of Social Studies (NCSS)/Children's Book Council (CBC), 1995, for May'naise Sandwiches and Sunshine Tea; Best Children's Books of the Year selection, Bank Street College of Education, 2000, and Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies, NCSS/CBC, 2001, both for McKendree.
From Miss Ida's Porch, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, Four Winds Press (New York, NY), 1993.
May'naise Sandwiches and Sunshine Tea, illustrated by Gail Gordon Carter, Four Winds Press (New York, NY), 1994.
Pictures for Miss Josie, illustrated by Benny Andrews, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Beauty, Her Basket, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2004.
The Tallest Tree: The Paul Robeson Story, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2008.
"ERNESTINE AND AMANDA" SERIES
Ernestine and Amanda, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
Summer Camp Ready or Not!, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
Members of the C.L.U.B., Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
Mysteries on Monroe Street, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.
McKendree, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Store-bought Baby, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Sparks (nonfiction; for adults), University Research Corp. Press, 1973.
Sandra Belton has published a number of well-received picture books for children in addition to novels for young adults that include the award-winning McKendree. She is perhaps best known for her "Ernestine and Amanda" series about two African-American girls growing up in the 1950s. In an interview with Janice DelNegro for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books online, Belton noted that the series is enriched by her own experiences as a youngster in small-town West Virginia. "Ernestine and Amanda are the keepers of my childhood memories and dreams," the author remarked. "Their voices echo the ones I heard while chasing lightning bugs and playing at twilight with the kids down the street. The homes they live in and the schools and churches they attend paint a picture of the neighborhoods that nurtured all of us. The events of their lives and the heroes they celebrate are the ones of our heritage."
Belton found success with her debut book for children, From Miss Ida's Porch, published in 1993. Miss Ida's porch becomes the gathering place for the neighborhood. Adults come to relax and enjoy a place of story-telling and reminiscing, while children come to hear true stories about African Americans such as Marian Anderson and Duke Ellington and their contributions to history. Elizabeth Hanson, writing in School Library Journal, called the book "outstanding in its depth of emotion and evocative depiction of poignant historical moments." In Horn Book, Lois F. Anderson praised the "rich, descriptive language," going on to claim that Belton "successfully blends together fact and fiction and, in the process, creates a distinctive mood and memorable, believable characters." Belton's second book for children, May'naise Sandwiches and Sunshine Tea, again features an older generation passing along stories to young people. In this book, Big Mama tells her grandchild about an experience she had as a child that influenced her to become the first member of her family to attend college.
In 1996, Belton issued the first of her "Ernestine and Amanda" books. In Ernestine and Amanda, the two girls meet at Miss Elder's house, where they are both taking piano lessons. Both take an instant dislike for each other, not realizing that each is struggling with personal problems. In Ernestine's case it is her weight that bothers her, and in Amanda's case it is her parent's marriage that she is worried about. The narrative alternates between the two girls, with each getting an alternating chapter. Belton uses the story to explore both the personal issues the girls are struggling with and the social reality of being African American in the 1950s. Susan Dove Lempke praised Belton's quality of prose, lauding her in a Booklist review for "beautifully capturing the voices of her characters."
At the beginning of the second book in the series, Summer Camp, Ready or Not!, Amanda is struggling with her parent's divorce, while Ernestine has recently learned that her father has lost his job. As with the first book in the "Ernestine and Amanda" series, the narrative alternates between the girls. Shipped off to camp for the summer, Amanda ends up in a nearly all-white camp, while Ernestine attends an all-black camp. Once again, Belton uses their experiences to highlight social issues of the day, including racial prejudice. Lempke wrote in another Booklist review that although the two girls hardly meet in the book, "Belton captures everyday life for middle-class black children during the 1950s with poignancy and freshness." A Kirkus Reviews critic further noted that while Belton deals directly with significant and difficult social issues of the day, her "novel translates well to classroom use" because it presents the issues in such a thoughtful manner.
In series installment Members of the C.L.U.B., Belton focuses on Amanda's attempts to launch an exclusive club that she is sure Ernestine will not qualify for. Ernestine, on the other hand, is sad because she does not have a best friend in class. As the book progresses, Ernestine makes friends with the beautiful Wilhelmina, while Amanda discovers that not many people are very enthusiastic about her exclusive club. Writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Janice M. Del Negro noted that in this book of "alternating points of view," Belton "strikes just the right balance between humor and pathos."
In the two girls' next adventure, Mysteries on Monroe Street, the girls are excited about the launch of a new dance studio in their town. As Amanda enjoys the dancing lessons, Ernestine, conscious about her weight, opts to play the piano for the lessons instead. Although the narrative alternates between the girls again, in this book the two have established a somewhat precarious, though continuously stormy relationship. Once again, Belton was praised by critics for her realistic portrayal of life in the 1950s, with Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books reviewer Del Negro remarking on the writer's ability to keep "her characters and her series firmly in hand as she leads them out of the 1950s and toward a promising if potentially stormy future."
In Pictures for Miss Josie, Belton creates a picture-book biography of celebrated African American educator Josephine Carroll Smith, who helped desegregate schools in Washington, DC, and served as that city's director of elementary education. In the work, a young boy visits Smith's home, where she once welcomed the youngster's father when he was a student. As the years pass, the relationship between Smith and the boy deepens, and she encourages him to pursue his interest in art. The work earned praise for Belton's spare, inviting text and illustrator Benny Andrews's elegant artwork. According to School Library Journal reviewer Heather E. Miller, Andrews's "large, brightly colored folk paintings, done in oil and collage, are in harmony with the quiet, lyrical narrative," and a critic in Publishers Weekly similarly noted, "The illustrations … solidly depict action only implied in the narrative, thus complementing Belton's economy of language while propelling the story." A Kirkus Reviews contributor described Pictures for Miss Josie as a "gracious, gentle-hearted story" and "a fine tribute."
Featuring artwork by Cozbi A. Cabrera, Beauty, Her Basket introduces readers to a young girl spending a summer with her Nana, a member of the Gullah community living on the Sea Islands off the coast of Georgia. During her time there, the narrator learns about the African heritage of her ancestors, as well as the history of the sea grass baskets her grandmother weaves. "Belton once again uses a narrative tale to illuminate priceless nuggets of African American history," Terry Glover remarked in Booklist. The author "has a lovely way with a phrase," observed a critic in Publishers Weekly, who called the tale "a quiet treasure."
Turning to older readers, in McKendree, Belton tells a coming-of-age story about Tilara Haynes, a teen who is struggling to find her identity. Through the course of the book, Tilara learns to appreciate the diversity and richness of her own African-American roots. Spending the summer working with her Aunt Cloelle in McKendree, a retirement home for black seniors, she learns to take pride in her own heritage. The author's "love for the characters and for the time and place of her period setting is infectious," remarked Booklist contributor Michael Cart. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called Belton's portrayal of her protagonist's growth "persuasive and thought-provoking," while Lisa Denton, writing in School Library Journal, remarked on the quality of Belton's writing and imagery, also lauding her "finely crafted characterizations."
A high school sophomore must deal with grief and loneliness following the death of her adopted older brother in Store-bought Baby, Belton's 2006 novel for young adults. After a car accident takes the life of her beloved sibling, Leah copes with her sorrow by seeking Luce's birth parents. In the process, she comes to a greater understanding of Luce's special relationship with his adoptive mother and father. "Leah's voice is consistent throughout," commented Horn Book reviewer Deborah Taylor, "and her misery and confusion are palpable." Store-bought Baby "is an affecting novel dealing with a difficult loss and emphasizing the redemptive power of family," commented Janis Flint-Ferguson in Kliatt, and Hazel Rochman stated in Booklist that "Belton's powerful novel opens up the meaning of ‘real’ family"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Black Issues Book Review, July-August, 2003, Suzanne Rust, review of Pictures for Miss Josie, p. 64; March-April, 2004, Erica Dollan, review of Beauty, Her Basket, p. 67.
Booklist, January, 1997, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Ernestine and Amanda, p. 855; August, 1997, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Summer Camp, Ready or Not!, p. 1898; November 15, 1997, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Members of the C.L.U.B., p. 557; July, 1998, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Mysteries on Monroe Street, p. 1881; August, 2000, Michael Cart, review of McKendree, p. 2133; May 1, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Pictures for Miss Josie, p. 1604; March 1, 2004, Terry Glover, review of Beauty, Her Basket, p. 1192; May 1, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of Store-bought Baby, p. 79.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 1997, Janice M. Del Negro, review of Summer Camp, Ready or Not!, p. 6; February, 1998, Janice M. Del Negro, review of Members of the C.L.U.B., p. 194; September, 1998, Janice M. Del Negro, review of Mysteries on Monroe Street, p. 7.
Horn Book, November, 1993, Lois F. Anderson, review of From Miss Ida's Porch, p. 743; May-June, 2003, Maria Salvadore, review of Pictures for Miss Josie, p. 325; May-June, 2006, Deborah Taylor, review of Store-bought Baby, p. 310.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1997, review of Summer Camp, Ready or Not!, p. 797; April 1, 2003, review of Pictures for Miss Josie, p. 531; December 15, 2003, review of Beauty, Her Basket, p. 1446.
Kliatt, May, 2006, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of Store-bought Baby, p. 4.
Publishers Weekly, July 26, 1993, review of From Miss Ida's Front Porch, p. 73; October 1, 1996, review of Ernestine and Amanda, p. 84; June 5, 2000, review of McKendree, p. 95; March 17, 2003, review of Pictures for Miss Josie, p. 76; January 12, 2004, review of Beauty, Her Basket, p. 54.
School Library Journal, November, 1993, Elizabeth Hanson, review of From Miss Ida's Porch, p. 76; August, 1997, Starr LaTronica, review of Summer Camp, Ready or Not!, p. 154; November, 1997, Tammy J. Marley, review of Members of the C.L.U.B., p. 114; July, 2000, Lisa Denton, review of McKendree, p. 100; May, 2003, Heather E. Miller, review of Pictures for Miss Josie, p. 108; June, 2006, Carol A. Edwards, review of Store-bought Baby, p. 146.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL) June 8, 2003, review of Pictures for Miss Josie, p. 5.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Web site,http://bccb.lis.uiuc.edu/arch98.html/ (October 2, 1998), Janice DelNegro, "Rising Star: Sandra Belton."
Sandra Belton Home Page,http://www.sandrabelton.com (December 20, 2007).