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Multicultural Literature for Youth

Author Study: Taylor (5)

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Mildred Taylor - Book Reviews (continued)

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Taylor, Mildred D. 1995. The Well. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 0-8037-1802-0.

 

A prequel to Taylor’s well-known Logan family saga, The Well is set in rural Mississipi in the early 1900’s when David Logan is ten. The weather has been hot and dry for a long period, and well water is scarce. The Logans still have sweet well water that they kindly share with both Black and White neighbors. Young Charlie Simms, one of the meanest Whites around, resents that the African-American Logans have plentiful land and water, and he makes life hard for David and his older, volatile brother, Hammer. After Charlie strikes David, Hammer retaliates, and the Logan boys and family end up in serious trouble. To stay out of jail, Hammer and David labor on the Simms farm for an entire summer. However, once his father leaves town, Hammer beats up Charlie again.  Charlie gets even through a cold, calculated act that hurts the Logan family and the entire community.   

 

The Well is a fast-paced, dramatic, well-written novella with believable characters and a realistic plot.  Readers get a feeling for early 20th century southern racism and for the careful, restricted lives Blacks lead to avoid trouble from their White neighbors. Readers also glimpse the Logan family’s love, support, and wisdom that help shield family members from racism’s ugliness.

 

Taylor provides colorful cultural details through language/dialect, family, community, forms of address, food, references to slavery, and religion. She does not address music, clothes, or physical appearance. An example of the Logans' Black southern dialect is when Mama says, "Y'all get y'alls water and y'all go on!" (38). The Logans' extended family is close, and the Logans freely share their well water with neighbors. Mama makes molasses bread to gain the sheriff's sympathy; she addresses the White sheriff in the manner expected of Blacks. Ma Rachel tells sad tales about her slavery days. Papa, Hammer, and David attend a pretend church service to spare a young man's feelings; one can tell they are familiar with the prayers and music.

 

Because the "n" word is used many times in The Well, it was taken off my school's reading list when a parent complained. While some modern readers might object to the “n” word, the characters who use the word would have done so in real life, and the politically incorrect language adds to the work’s historical accuracy.  Also, some readers may find it awkward that the 92-page book is not broken into chapters. This reviewer does not see that as a problem.; many readers will devour the book in one sitting. This story is recommended for ages 9 and above.

 

(Note: Please see "Author Study - Taylor (6)"  for a comparison of Roll My Thunder, Hear My Cry and The Well).

 

 

Link to Comparison of Roll of Thunder and The Well