Margaree King Mitchell
Margaree King Mitchell
has received several accolades for writing, including being named
a finalist by the Writers Guild of America in a fellowship program
for her script "Corporate Lies," but her true literary calling may
be for children's literature, which began as a result of a visit
to her son's school.
She was born July 23, 1953, in Holly Springs,
Mississippi. She received a B.S. at Brandeis
University in 1975, and in 1982 she married Kevin Lee Mitchell.
From 1987 to 1990 she served as the director of the drama department
at Monumental Baptist Church in Memphis. She has also served as
officers on several school districts' parent-teacher organizations.
Her dramatic writings include "Once Upon
a Dream," which was presented in an Arkansas Screen Writers Association
workshop in 1992; "Corporate Lies," for which she was named a finalist
in the East Foundation Fellowship Program for the Writers Guild
of America; the television script "School's Out" in 1994; and the
play The Hi-Rise, for which she was a finalist in the Theatre
Memphis New Play Competition in 1991.
It was not until 1993 that she would publish
her first book, however. A visit to her son's first grade class
as a volunteer left her with the impression that many of the children
faced school without any support from home and lacked self-esteem.
Many of them had no concept of why they were there and had never
seen a book. "I thought if I could somehow write a book that would
inspire children to achieve their dreams, then maybe children would
be motivated to stay in school and look to the future for a better
life for themselves."
The resulting Uncle Jed's Barbershop
is a children's book focusing on a truly Mississippi tale as told
by eight-year-old narrator Sarah Jean. The story details her relationship
with her barber and uncle, Jed, who travels the rural Mississippi
countryside performing his trade in the early 1920s. Although Jed
often receives payment in the form of chickens, his dream is to
save roughly three thousand dollars to open his own barbershop.
But Sarah Jean becomes ill, and Jed is the only family member with
enough cash to pay for her treatments. Fortunately, Sarah Jean recovers,
but Jed's dream of owning his own barbershop does not fare as well.
Uncle Jed continues working towards his dream, and eventually perseveres.
Although Uncle Jed's Barbershop
has been well-received critically, it seems the most important critic
is the author herself. Mitchell has been rewarded by children's
testimonials on how her story has bolstered their confidence, inspired
them to attempt their own dreams and educated them on the cultural
background of struggles for civil rights .
Mitchell's more recent book is Granddaddy's
Gift and she is currently researching the Buffalo Soldiers for
her next project.
Related Links & Info
Uncle Jed's Barbershop was featured on the instructional television
Uncle Jed's Barbershop is the focus for these
and Geography Lessons presented by the Montgomery County Public
Schools web site in Rockville, Maryland.
Information about illustrator James
Ransome is available at Authors & Illustrators.
- Children's Books:
- Uncle Jed's Barbershop, illustrated by James Rasome. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.
- Grandaddy's Gift. Mahwah, New Jersey: Bridgewater Books, 1996.
- Articles and Book Reviews:
- Austin American Statesman, January 16, 1994, p. F7.
- Booklist, September 1, 1993, p. 69.
- Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 1993, p. 19.
- Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1993, p. 938.
- Publishers Weekly, August 2, 1993, pp. 78-79.
- School Library Journal, October, 1993, pp. 105-106.
- Internet Resources
- Several book reviews of Uncle Jed's Barberhop (by children readers) are available on the web:
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