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It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw

By Don Tate

Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie


Growing up as an enslaved boy on an Alabama cotton farm, Bill Traylor worked all day in the hot fields. When slavery ended, Bill’s family stayed on the farm as sharecroppers. There Bill grew to manhood, raised his own family, and cared for the land and his animals.

By 1935 Bill was eighty-one and all alone on his farm. So he packed his bag and moved to Montgomery, the capital of Alabama. Lonely and poor, he wandered the busy downtown streets. But deep within himself Bill had a reservoir of memories of working and living on the land, and soon those memories blossomed into pictures. Bill began to draw people, places, and animals from his earlier life, as well as scenes of the city around him.

Today Bill Traylor is considered to be one of the most important self-taught American folk artists. Winner of Lee & Low’s New Voices Award Honor, It Jes’ Happened is a lively tribute to this man who has enriched the world with more than twelve hundred warm, energetic, and often humorous pictures.

Teacher’s Guide

BookTalk with Don Tate and R. Gregory Christie

Book Teaser

Book Trailer

Finalist - Picture Books
Writers' League of Texas Book Awards

"Starred Review"
Kirkus Reviews

"Starred Review"

"Starred Review"
School Library Journal

Top 10 Biographies for Youth 2012

More awards...
Interest Level
Grades 1 - 6
Reading Level
Grade 3
Art, Biography, African/African American Interest, Childhood Experiences and Memories, Dreams & Aspirations, Historical Interest, Imagination, Overcoming Obstacles, Slavery, United States History, Nonfiction
About the Creators

Don Tate makes his debut as an author with the publication of It Jes’ Happened. He has also illustrated more than forty trade and educational books for children, including the highly-praised Summer Sun Risin’ and Black All Around!, published by Lee & Low Books; She Loved Baseball; and Ron’s Big Mission. Tate and his family live in Austin, Texas. He can be found online at dontate.com .

R. Gregory Christie is a three-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Honor. His work for Lee & Low includes two books that won this award: The Palm of My Heart and Brothers in Hope. Christie has also been twice recognized on The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books list. He currently paints in the evenings while traveling around the country doing school visits. His website is gas-art.com .

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