Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Brick by Brick

Cooper, Floyd (Illustrator)
HarperCollins 2013. 32 pages
First published: 2013
ISBN: 9780061920820 (hardcover)
9780061920844 (paperback)
Original language: English
Dewey: 975.3
Book type: Non-Fiction

Text Elements:

figurative language, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This book pays tribute to the slaves who helped build America, and suffered to earn their freedom, through their role in the construction of the White House in 1792.

The author uses poetic, mostly rhyming language to evoke the hard labour involved in building this large and ambitious structure: “Under a hazy,/hot summer sun,/many hands work/together as one.” Some pages simply list the first names of slaves, humanizing and personalizing those who were deprived of their freedom. The language describes the injustices of slavery: “Slave hands saw/twelve hours a day,/but slave owners take/slave hands’ pay.” The particular focus on the hands of the slaves emphasizes how the physical labour of construction, at the time, was indeed done by hands, not machines. The frequent repetition of the words “slave hands” is heavy and evocative, continually reminding the reader of the injustice of slavery.

The illustrations are done in an oil wash of various shades of brown, creating soft lines and deep shadows that bring to life the faces of the slaves while portraying their back-breaking tasks.

A note at the end of this moving tale explains why slaves helped build the White House.

  •  

    On a picture walk, notice the work done by the slaves. Discuss the construction of a building in the present versus in 1792, when the story is set. Make connections between the jobs then and now.

  •  What can you infer about how society was structured in 1792? Identify details in the text that give information about slavery.
  •  Write a diary entry from the point of view of one of the slaves. Reflect on the work you do and your feelings about slavery.
  •  

    Read the author’s note. Discuss the significance of the slaves’ hands.

  •  

    On a picture walk, notice the work done by the slaves. Discuss the construction of a building in present day versus 1792, when the story is set. Make connections between the jobs then and now.

  •  What can you infer about how society was structured in 1792? Identify details in the text that give information about slavery.
  •  

    Define and sort vocabulary by trade and material. Create an illustrated anchor chart of keywords.

  •  

    Learn about the context for the story by reading the last page aloud. Prepare a set of questions based on the information found there. Discuss how the White House was built.

  •  

    In partners, create a web with 5-10 ideas from the text. Explain your choices.

  •  

    Create a class recording of the poem. In pairs, learn one page by heart, then recite the poem together, team by team. (Core)

  •  

    Research Black History Month in Canada and choose an influential character. Share your learning through a selected medium: poster, poem, interview script, news report, etc. (EESL)


  • To construct his/her identity
  • To cooperate with others
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Ethics and Religious Culture
  • Geography, History and Citizenship