School Library Journal
"Based on the life of Benjamin Holmes, a slave who taught himself to read at a young age, this picture book is an inspiring account of overcoming oppression. Sherman's fictionalized telling is stirring, especially when Holmes revels in the discovery of new words; readers are moved to cheer on his clandestine efforts to learn. When Union troops approach Charleston, the tailor to whom Holmes is apprenticed leaves town, and the boy is imprisoned indefinitely with other slaves, and he is credited with reading the Emancipation Proclamation to his fellow inmates. The story culminates in a forceful scene when the inmates implore Ben to read the newspaper that contains Lincoln's history-making document. 'Louder,' someone called out. 'Stand up.'' Sherman's text has a stately simplicity. Cooper's paintings glow with a hopeful, golden warmth, and the best of them feature Benjamin and the other imprisoned slaves bearing witness and then celebrating as his voice rings out. This is a powerful tale of a bright ray of light in a very dark period in America."
"Driven by Cooper's (The Blacker the Berry) textural, earth-toned oil paintings, this uplifting story spotlights the early life of Benjamin C. Holmes, born a slave in the 1840s."
"The story and its telling are inspirational, and Cooper's signature oil paintings featuring muted shades of brown are, as usual, lovely . . . a solid Black History choice for younger students."