March 2016 Issue
March 06, 2016

Check it out The Emancipation of Grandpa Sandy Wills

Author: By Cheryl Wills - Illustration/Design by Randell Pearson
Source: NYSUT United

Check it Out: The Emancipation of Grandpa Sandy Wills by Cheryl WillsSuitable for: Grades 4–6

Recommended by: Rose Reissman, UFT, director of Writing Institute, Ditmas IS 62

Why I chose it: The cover illustration powerfully sets up the true story of the author's great-great-grandfather, Sandy Wills. Cheryl Wills searched online for her relatives, and found an ancestor who was born into slavery in Tennessee and wound up fighting on the Union side in the Civil War. The powerful family history is told through Sandy's interview with Cheryl as she dreams. The book provides key lessons about African- American slavery, showing how Sandy was parted from his mother, punished for trying to learn to read and served in the U.S. Colored Troops Division. He died free in 1889.

What I like best about this work: This book also functions as a narrative of how an author can draw on technology, research, digital primary source records and Web resources.

How teachers can use this book: The book includes a teacher's guide and information on free online resources students can use to investigate their own family tree. Students can connect this work of the past to international present conditions of slavery.

About the author: Cheryl Wills is an anchor for NY1 News in New York City. She is also the author of Die Free — A Heroic Family Tale. Read more about her at

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