We Wait for the Sun

h1 February 4th, 2021 by jules


I’m going to share here, before you take in these spectacular illustrations, the first paragraph of author Katie McCabe’s closing Author’s Note from We Wait for the Sun (Roaring Brook, February 2021), illustrated by Raissa Figueroa, as it perfectly captures what it is this book has to offer ….

When I met Dovey Roundtree in 1995, she was eight-two years old, and I was immediately drawn to her strength and her fierce passion for justice. A childhood story about pre-dawn blackberry picking may seem an odd choice to represent the life of a civil rights icon of Dovey’s magnitude. But in the twelve years she and I worked together on her autobiography, Mighty Justice, I came to understand that no relationship in her vast experience went more to the core of her soul than the one she had with her grandmother. In an era when the Ku Klux Klan terrorized Black communities and Jim Crow laws told Black children they were inferior, Dovey’s Grandmother, Rachel, imbued her with the certainty of her self-worth, giving her the most precious gift of all: her time. In the magical hour just before dawn, when Dovey was abroad with Grandma Rachel, she drank in the beauty of the universe in all its infinite possibility, and she did so in the presence of the adult she adored, and who loved her fiercely. This, without a doubt, shaped her into the woman she became. In its very ordinariness, it was life-altering.

So, here we have what McCabe calls (at the beginning of the book) the “story Dovey loved best.” Given that she told the story to McCabe, both are listed as the authors of this picture book. You can read here if you’re not familiar with who Dovey was, the groundbreaking civil rights activist and attorney who lived to the age of 104. (Information about both Dovey and her grandmother is appended to this story.) In this moving picture book, McCabe and Figueroa bring us the young Dovey, slipping out of the house “in the hour before dawn” on a midsummer night with her grandmother. Every bit of this 40-page book is devoted to this one magical morning. “I’m certain,” the young Dovey narrates, “Grandma Rachel and I are the only ones awake in the whole world.” But then other women join them (“as if by some secret signal”), as the sky slowly grows lighter.

With an evocative, observant text and Figueroa’s detailed, intimate illustrations, we are right there with young Dovey. We hear the berries the women pick hitting the tin pails they carry. We hear the whispers of the women as they gossip about church. Then, Grandma Rachel excitedly whispers, “Look, Dovey Mae. Over yonder.” The sun is rising. “Here she comes!” Grandma Rachel says, “her face shining in the light.” This is how Dovey Mae remembered her Grandma — “waiting for the sun.”

Figueroa does wonders here, particularly with light and shadow. The palette is dominated by deep purple shades as the women walk through the dark, and by the time the story ends, shimmering golds sing from the page. You can see the light change in the selection of spreads below, so I’ll let the art do the talking.

Beautiful. Enjoy. …


“It grows cooler as we enter the forest, and darker. ‘Dovey Mae?’ Grandma calls out.
‘I’m right here,’ I answer. ‘Right over here.’ ‘The darkness isn’t anything to be afraid of, child. If you wait just a little, your eyes will learn to see, and you can find your way.
Hold on to my apron, now.'”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“We begin to walk. Grandma’s steps are swift and sure, and I move as she does. I fix my eyes on the shiny heels of her shoes, and I listen. The darkness holds a thousand sounds. As we push deeper and deeper into the woods, the blackness turns to gray, and
sleepy birds begin calling to each other, setting the trees tops echoing.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“Again and again, Grandma reaches low or stands tip-toe to pluck berries. And then, suddenly, in the middle of her rush, she stops. ‘Look, Dovey Mae,’ she whispers.
‘Over yonder.’ Slowly, slowly, the horizon pinkens. ‘Here she comes!’ Grandma whispers.
She draws me to her, and together we watch the pink turn to red, the red to gold.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“I don’t know how long we stay there watching, but when Grandma claps her hand on my shoulder and shakes out her skirt, dawn is day. My grandmother turns and heads down the path, quick and hurried again, leading me home.”
(Click spread to enlarge)


(Click cover to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

WE WAIT FOR THE SUN. Text copyright © 2021 by Katie McCabe and the Dovey Johnson Roundtree Educational Trust. Illustrations © 2020 by Raissa Figueroa and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Roaring Brook Press, New York.

2 comments to “We Wait for the Sun

  1. What a gorgeous book and beautiful story about the early life of an amazing and inspiring human.

  2. What beautiful illustrations! Absolutely glowing and entrancing.

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