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Me and Momma and Big John

by Mara Rockliff
Illustrated by William Low

Published by Candlewick Press, 2012
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4359-1

Ages 5-8

A young African American boy describes his mother’s job as a stonecutter, helping in the construction of “Big John”--the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City. “A cathedral is a big, grand, fancy church, and Big John is the grandest of them all. Momma tells us you could put our whole apartment building in the middle, and it wouldn’t even touch the high round ceiling.” He begins to think of his mother as an artist, so is disappointed when he’s finally able to visit her job site and see the stone she’s finished. It doesn’t seem very special. But his perspective changes once he’s inside the Cathedral: He understands her single stone is part of something bigger, like the individual voices of the choir that is singing, each one supporting the others, her stone will support other stones and become part of the great building. “I think about the hands that worked on every stone until it was exactly right, knowing that it had to last a long, long time.” An afterword gives more information about the history of the unfinished cathedral, begun in 1892. Work was slowed by both World Wars, but continued with an innovative apprentice program that began in 1982. Funds ran out for that program in 2007 and construction has halted again. Mara Rockliff’s stirring picture book text is set against soaring illustrations by William Low. Honor Book, 2013 Charlotte Zolotow Award  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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