These Hands by Margaret H. Mason

These Hands by Margaret H. Mason
These Hands by Margaret H. Mason

today’s children storybook summary is

These Hands

By Margaret H. Mason

Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

The takeaway

About sixty years ago, the African American workers at the Wonder Bread, Awrey, and Tastee bakery factories were not allowed to work as bread mixers or bread handlers. As a matter of fact, there were a lot of jobs that were given to “whites only”. The Civil Rights act, passed in 1964, made it against the law to employ people based on their skin color. This book is based on a true story and is intended as a life and history lesson.

The takeaway is that our action today determines the future tomorrow, just as well as our actions in the past counts for our present. This book teaches kids that the fight for equal rights and oppose racial discrimination.


Joseph is a little African-American boy who likes to spend time with his grandpa. No wonder, since grandpa can do so many wonderful things.

With his hands, says grandpa, he can tie a triple bow knot in three seconds and he can teach Joseph to tie his shoes. His hands can also play the piano, play card tricks and throw a curve ball. And he can teach Joseph to do a water fall shuffle or hit a line drive. His hands can do a lot of things, things that most humans can do, (some better some worse I should add) but there was a time when grandpa’s hands were forbitten to touch certain things.

When he worked at the Wonder Bread factory, he tells Joseph, he was not allowed to mix the dough. He was only allowed to sweep the floor, work the line and load the trucks, but never allowed to touch the bread dough. The bosses of the bread factory said that white people didn’t want to eat bread touched by African-American hands.

Then, he says to the little kid, his hands joined with other hands and hey sign petitions, and protested, and marched, until they changed how things worked at the factory. And now, he tells Joseph, his hands can mix the bread dough, no matter their color.

It is now Joseph’s turn, who had been listening and learning, to show grandpa what he can do. With his little hands he can tie his shows, play the piano, shuffle the cards and hit the ball. Just as he leaned from his grandfather. And he can also bake a fine bread. As a matter a fact, these hands can do anything in the world, says Grandpa.


Grandpa, Joseph


Floyd Cooper, the illustrator of this book, had put his name on more then ninety children’s book and has won three Coretta Scott King Honor awards. His depictions are very generous, meaning that they fill the pages, with the text lined just in an unoccupied space of the story.  The colors are soft: different shades of brow and yellow, with an occasional red or blue. They are radiating warmth and comfort. The illustration is realistic. Under his stroke, the people in the book come alive, their feelings transcending the pages of the books.

Recommended Age

5 to 8

Reading Time

3  to 5 minutes

Things to Learn

Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a set rules that, among others, outlaw discrimination based in race, color, sex, nationality or religion.


Sankay Award, Japan, 2012

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