Leon's Story

Leon Walter Tillage; Illustrated by Susan L. Roth

Square Fish

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"Leon's Story is a powerful, wonderful thing!" -- Nikki Giovanni

I remember that as a young boy I used to look in the mirror and I would curse my color, my blackness. But in those days they didn't call you "black." They didnt say "minority." They called us "colored" or "nigger."

Leon Tillage grew up the son of a sharecropper in a small town in North Carolina. Told in vignettes, this is his story about walking four miles to the school for black children, and watching a school bus full of white children go past. It's about his being forced to sit in the balcony at the movie theater, hiding all night when the Klansmen came riding, and worse. Much worse.

But it is also the story of a strong family and the love that bound them together. And, finally, it's about working to change an oppressive existence by joining the civil rights movement. Edited from recorded interviews conducted by Susan L. Roth, Leon's story will stay with readers long after they have finished his powerful account.
Leon's Story is the winner of the 1998 Boston Globe - Horn Book Award for Nonfiction.

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Praise for Leon's Story

"In this riveting autobiography, Baltimore janitor Leon Walter Tillage reflects on his life with all the vitality of a storyteller gathering his audience around him. He recalls his childhood as an African American sharecropper's son in 1940s North Carolina...Tillage's words describe a time, only a few short decades back, when Klansmen and Jim Crow laws ruled the South...Roth's dramatic black-and-white collages pay homage to the power of Leon's story, a tale that does more in its gentle way to explose the horrors of racism than most works of fiction ever could.""-Starred, Publishers Weekly

"The story has great power."-The New York Times Book Review

"The incidents described in his moving personal narrative are transcribed from taped oral testimony...The full strength of character of Leon Tillage and those he represents is revealed in the plain dignity of his words." - Starred, The Horn Book

Reviews from Goodreads


About the Author

Leon Walter Tillage; Illustrated by Susan L. Roth

Leon Walter Tillage lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where he has worked for thirty years as a custodian at The Park School.

Susan L. Roth's many picture books include Ishi's Tale of Lizard, which was an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists. She lives in Great Neck, New York.

Leon Walter Tillage
Susan L. Roth


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Available Formats and Book Details

Leon's Story
Leon Walter Tillage; Illustrated by Susan L. Roth


American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults, American Library Association Notable Children's Books, IRA Teachers' Choices, Boston Globe - Horn Book Award, Carter G. Woodson Book Award (NCSS), Booklist Editors' Choice, Horn Book Magazine Fanfare List

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Square Fish
September 2000
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780374443306
ISBN10: 0374443300
Middle-Grade Fiction
5 x 7 inches, 112 pages, Black-and-white collages throughout
Age Range: 9 to 13
Grade Range: 4 to 8 Information for Librarians

Information for Librarians

Lexile: 970LL
F&P Level A-Z: T
AR Quiz Number: 25238
AR Points: 2


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Square Fish

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