Perfect Picture Book Friday/ Pappy’s Handkerchief

As a break from my fav of all time, Jon Scieszka, I am introducing a historical fiction picture book, “Pappy’s Handkerchief.” By Devin Scillian and Chris Ellison. Don’t the author and illustrator names just scream American history?

Book Cover of Pappy's HandkerchiefTitle: Pappy’s Handkerchief

Author: Devin Scillian

Illustrator: Chris Ellison

Historical Fiction published by Sleeping Bear Press, 2007

Themes: American History, American Pioneers, African-Americans, Oklahoma land run, Negroes.

Appropriate for ages: Five through eleven

Resources: Teacher guides giving prereading questions, comprehension questions and discussion questions. included are maps and discussion on what the American dream is. There is a lot more on there including show and tell feelings, math, word find and searches and more. This one is most conclusive.

First Page, First three sentences: “March 25, 1889– Baltimore, Maryland. The icy air smelled like salt and as the fishermen laid out the bounty of their nets, large snowflakes began to land on the dark, green waves off the Baltimore pier. As I did every day, I ran from home at lunchtime to help my father in our fish stall. But with the weather getting worse and a meager day’s catch from the fishermen, there were few takers for the goods on my father’s table. Still, I cried out to the passersby as always.”

From the Jacket: It’s Baltimore 1889— sales are slow and times are tough for everyone selling fish from a stall. Young Moses and his family are barely scraping by. Several of the fishermen talk of traveling to

Oklahoma, where rumor has it there’s free farmland. The family sells all they own and head west to fulfill a lifelong dream. Their wagon journey, however, is plagued with troubles from ice storms and flooded rivers to diminishing supplies and sickness. Yet Moses and his family persevere. They arrive in time to take a place along the boundary line that marks the staging point for the Oklahoma Land Run. But after making it this far, will even more bad luck prevent them from realizing their dream of owning their own piece of America?

This spellbinding story framed with evocative paintings sits alongside other equally poignant historical fiction in the Tales of Young Americans series from Sleeping Bear Press.

Why I love it: The story draws one in immediately as you can see from the first three sentences and is

narrated in first person. As I read to the end, racing along with Moses, the main character, to stake his claim in Oklahoma, my throat had a lump and I was hoping against all odds that he could do it. This story about one of our brave and courageous pioneer Black American families is historical fiction at its finest, telling a true story while imparting a history lesson. At the end of the story it is up to Moses, from who’s  point of view the story is written, to save the claim  the family came all this way and faced all those hardships for.

For more books with resources please visit Perfect Picture Books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog. And if you’d like to bewhisked away through cyber space to the resource page and the list of more marvelous

Picking Picture Books

Picking Picture Books (Photo credit: Salem (MA) Public Library)

recommended perfect picture books just click on the perfect picture book badge on the right.

So do you think you would read it? Do you like historical picture books or do you think the kids are too young to get the meaning of the book?


About ClaraBowmanJahn

Journal writer. Author of "Annie's Special Day" And coauthor of Edmund Pickle Chin, A Donkey Rescue Story." Proud mother and grandmother of wonderful kids. Wife of brilliant husband. Servant of two cats. Member of Pennwriters and SCBWI.
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25 Responses to Perfect Picture Book Friday/ Pappy’s Handkerchief

  1. Great choice – especially for older readers. I’m interested in getting this for my kids, as they are both learning about the west and settlement right now. Thanks for sharing!


  2. I agree—great choice andI’mpostingyour link on my FB fanpage as usual!


  3. Oh, this sounds great, Clar! I always love historical fiction and picture books for slightly older readers. Thanks for adding this one to our list – it looks really good and I will have to add it to my TBR list!


  4. Love historical fiction! And, this book sounds particularly engaging. And, I like NW Oklahoma. I think it’s important for kids to experience history through fiction. Reading facts are boring. But, a good story will have a great impact. Nice choice.


  5. Joanna says:

    I always enjoy historical fiction and would love this. Just out of interest, why do the author and illustrator’s names cry American history?


    • clarbojahn says:

      To me they sound like all American cowboy names and remind me of the west, that’s why I said that they cry American history. I forgot the name of the western painter but those names reminded me of that, too. 🙂


  6. My passion is writing historic PBs…thanks for introducing this one to us. Sounds like a winner…I will check it out at the library today!


  7. Clar, I always enjoy historical fiction recommendations. Thanks for this one!


  8. Fats Suela says:

    A unique mix to the picture book list! Historical fiction is fascinating. My boyfriend grew up in Oklahoma. We’ll look into this book next time we visit the library. Thanks Clar! 🙂


  9. Margot Finke says:

    What a great book. – a history lesson with pictures!! I Facebooked, Twittered and GoogleX it.

    * Books for Kids – Manuscript Critiques
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  10. I also love historical fiction. This one looks very good. Thanks for sharing it with us.


  11. I really love books like this! I like historical fiction / non-fiction books, but it’s cool to find picture books that teach history. I think there should be more books like this!


  12. Thankyou Clar for bring this historical fiction to my attention. I must look it up. I love books like this to.


  13. Peggy Strack says:

    I’m a speech therapist in a public school and stories that bring historical figures alive are always welcome. Right now I’m involved with some classrooms where we act out scenes from these kinds of books–kids love it!


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