Written by Gloria Jean Pinkney, Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Dial Books for Young Readers, 1994
“Mama, what time is it?” called Ernestine from the front stoop.
The plot in a nutshell: A girl dreams of taking a train trip.
Ernestine and her Aunt Odessa go the North Philadelphia Station to watch the train coming through on its way to North Carolina. Ernestine was born in North Carolina and her relatives there have invited her for a visit, but her parents can’t afford a ticket because they’re saving to buy a house. Her aunt tells her that perhaps she could give something up to help pay for the ticket. That night, while her aunt and mama are looking through a catalog for new school clothes, Ernestine tells her that she doesn’t need new clothes this year and that they can put that money toward a train ticket. Mama and Daddy tell her they’ll discuss it and let her know in the morning. They realize they can give up some things, too, and the next morning, they start making plans for her travel. Mama loans Ernestine her wedding satchel and tells her how the conductor will make sure she gets off at the right stop. When the day comes, she’s nervous and excited and settles in as the train begins its journey.
Author Gloria Jean Pinkney introduced Ernestine and her family in 1992’s Back Home, which actually tells the story of her trip to North Carolina and her visit with her family. This book serves as a prequel that lends more depth to that story by giving some insight into how difficult it was for the family to make that trip happen and how special it was for Ernestine. Ms. Pinkney was born in the Lumberton, the city where Ernestine’s family lives, which makes the story feel more autobiographical and personal. In addition, the text has a wonderful authentic tone that helps you feel that you know these characters and firmly puts you in their timeframe.
The illustrations are done by the author’s husband, Jerry Pinkney, who has become a big favorite of mine. His artwork here was done with pencil, colored pencils and watercolor, using color separation to create the halftones that give the pictures an ethereal almost dreamlike quality, while still appearing realistic and incredibly detailed. The use of patterns in fabrics and home décor transports you into their Philadelphia home. Mr. Pinkney was wonderful to talk to at the Inspiration Day event. I had the chance to discuss my opinions on censorship with him and he underscored the importance of using books as springboards for discussion, learning and growth.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that dreams are nice, but it’s even better when you can take action to make them reality.