The Bell Rang

Ages: 4 - 8Publisher: Simon & Schuster Author/Illustrator: James Ransome


Our small protagonist is a slave child on a plantation where she lives in a cabin with her parents and her big brother Ben and their lives are ruled by the bell that rings before dawn to signal the start of the workday. Her parents and Ben work in the fields while she is still allowed to spend the day with the other young children under the supervision of Miss Sarah Mae. One day, Ben hands her a doll he has made from twisted sticks and whispers, “Good-bye.”


Told in the first person from an observant child’s perspective, this is an open-ended story about a runaway slave. Although Ben’s friends are captured and brought back to the plantation where, “Out comes the whip,” Ben has not returned.  The gorgeous, painted illustrations in a muted pallet across double-page spreads portray the love of one family caught in slavery. While their circumstances are incredibly grim, Ransome avoids the harshest scenes and depicts their love and worry through expressive portraiture. With golden outlines, the artist can make individuals, who seem real, glow. A masterwork.

Kemie Nix ©2019 Parents’ Choice

Kemie Nix is Chairman of Children’s Literature for Children (CLC), a non-profit, tax-exempt, educational organization dedicated to bringing children and books together. Mrs. Nix, a senior book editor for Parents’ Choice, has a remarkable sense of selecting books children love to read.

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