Searching for Sarah Rector
Searching for Sarah Rector
Written by Tonya Bolden
Grades 5 and up
Sometimes fact is more surprising (and relieving) than fiction. Coretta Scott King winner Tonya Bolden proves this and more in her gripping nonfiction picturebook, Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America. Beginning with a front-page news story about the possibility of her kidnapping, Bolden generates intrigue, invites speculation, and compiles little-known fragments of U.S. history that entice readers to assemble Sarah’s story. How did Sarah, at just eleven-years old, amass such a fortune? Therein lies the brilliance of this biography. As readers attempt to reconstruct the events and circumstances surrounding Sarah’s fortune and whereabouts, Bolden takes readers on her own journey to piece together what happened and why so that the book is both a historical mystery and an exercise in author’s craft. Bolden rouses our curiosity in a number of clever ways, including turning master narratives about slavery upside-down, dropping red herrings and taking fascinating detours with the narration, and reminding us throughout that she was writing, she too was “searching for Sarah Rector” in the shards of primary sources available. Share this book with your students, as it will fascinate them on multiple levels: as readers, as writers, and as history detectives.
Teaching Ideas and Invitations
Creek Nation. Bolden begins her mystery about possible betrayal and broken promises affecting Sarah with another story of betrayal and broken promises—those associated with the formation of Creek Nation. Encourage students to learn more about the Muscogee (Creek) people by reading the digital resources listed below, as well as any print references. You may want to divide the class into small groups that study different aspects of Creek Nation and then share their findings with the rest of the class.
Tonya Bolden’s website
Websites about Sarah Rector
Websites about researching Sarah Rector
Interviews with Tonya Bolden
Websites about Creek Indians
Websites about the Oil Industry
Bolden, T. (2005). Maritcha: A nineteenth-century American girl. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers.
Bolden, T. (2008). George Washington Carver. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers.
Bolden, T. (2013). Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the dawn of liberty. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers.
Marrin, A. (2013). Black gold: The story of oil in our lives. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Jarnow, J. (2004). Oil, steel, and railroads: America’s big businesses in the late 1800s. Rosen.
About Grace Enriquez
Grace is an associate professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former English Language Arts teacher, reading specialist, and literacy consultant, she teaches and writes about children’s literature, critical literacies, and literacies and embodiment. Grace is co-author of The Reading Turn-Around and co-editor of Literacies, Learning, and the Body.
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