They say that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Well, Mary Walker must not have got the message as at the age of one-hundred-and fourteen years young she began taking lessons to achieve something that she had vowed to do almost one-hundred years earlier, she was going to learn to read.
Mary Walker was born into slavery on the 6th of May, 1848. As a slave she was not to be educated and was not to be provided with the tools for learning. But that didn’t stop Mary from having dreams. At the age of fifteen she was free - the Emancipation Proclamation outlawed slavery and Mary was no longer a slave, she along with her siblings and her mother were free. But how was a family with nothing supposed to live freely?
One day, Mary received a bible and she vowed to one day be able to read the squiggles inside of it. But her own learning journey would have to wait, there was work to be done and children to raise. Throughout her life she continued to work for others and was never wealthy but her dream to read never disappeared. Eventually her working days were done and after out-living her family members, including her own children, she finally had the time to do something that she had always wanted. At one-hundred-and fourteen years old Mary joined an English class and two years later she had learnt to read.
I love true stories and finding out about incredible people from history and the life of Mary Walker definitely makes for an interesting read. This is a fabulous picture book biography of her life and how she came to be the world’s oldest student. I honestly cannot think of a more inspirational woman. This book is truly inspirational in so many ways and should be read by adults and children. Mary endured slavery, worked many jobs during her lifetime including cleaning, cooking, nannying and crop growing, she raised a family and never gave up on her dream. Whilst the author acknowledges some of the narrative had to be filled in with her own ideas and assumptions - little is known about Mary’s life from when she was freed from slavery until she learnt to read at one-hundred-and-sixteen - the nuts and bolts of the story are true.
The book is illustrated throughout with collage style illustrations. One thing I really liked is that the illustrations feature squiggles for the most part - books and signs had no meaning to Mary - and it is only once she learns to read that these squiggles turn to letters and words.
No matter of the odds that are stacked against you or the number of obstacles there are to overcome, the story of Mary Walker should help readers see that perseverance and resolve are the key to fulfilling your life ambitions. Mary Walker offers hope and inspiration to us all. For anyone who ever says they cannot do something then this book is for them. As in the words of Mary Walker, “You’re never too old to learn.”