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Lyons Den Books

Talking with Tebé: 
Clementine Hunter, Memory Artist

(Houghton Mifflin Company, Fall 1998. ISBN 0-395-72031.)

Clementine Hunter was born in Louisiana in 1886. Called Tebé by her family, Hunter lived and worked on Melrose Plantation for more than 75 years. Her art tells the southern laborer's story. In colors as bright as the Louisiana sky, she shows the backbreaking work required to pick cotton, gather figs, cut sugar cane, and harvest pecans. Tebé's art portrays good times, too. Scenes of baptisms, weddings, and church socials celebrate a rich community life.

Mary Lyons gathered this text from Clementine Hunter's own words in magazine and newspaper articles and taped interviews. Step into these pages to meet Tebé. Sit loose and enjoy your talk with her. Let the artist's lively words and colorful pictures carry you way down yonder to Cane River as it was one hundred years ago.

A Review

Talking with Tebé: Clementine Hunter, Memory Artist
Edited by Mary E. Lyons

This compelling biography of an African-American sharecropper who gained national recognition as a self-taught artist blends southern history with the story of a spirited, independent woman worth knowing about. Born in 1886, Clementine Hunter remembered seeing her father pick four hundred pounds of cotton in a day. She herself set babies on the end of a cotton row, while she worked for less than two dollars a day. Clementine painted her first picture on a shoebox top with old tubes of paint found in a wastebasket. Before she died in 1988, at the age of 101, her work had been displayed in museums across the country. Editor Mary Lyons has masterfully pieced together audio and print interviews to allow Clementine to tell her amazing story in her own words. The result is an intimate visit with a woman who expressed her soul through art created late at night after a full day's work. Color illustrations give examples of Hunter's work with informative captions. Art teachers will be delighted by the elegant explanation of folk art. Social studies teachers will love the vivid historical lessons. Every reader who comes in contact with this book will be enriched. 1998, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 9 to 12, $16.00.
Reviewer: Jackie Hechtkopf

Read another review.


Much of Tebé's narrative is taken from taped interviews made over twenty-five years ago. Spoken, or oral history, is important. Without the tapes, many of Tebé's thoughts, feelings, and memories would be lost forever.

Step One:
Prepare questions about the past, especially things about which you are curious. For example, what was school like in the old days? Entertainment, food, sports, clothing?

Step Two:
Ask the oldest person you know to answer your questions. Tape if possible. Write down the results, including the location of the interview and your feelings about the interviewee.

Step Three:
Illustrate with photos if available. Make copies for the interviewee and her/his family members.


Do you have a preschool brother or sister?

1. Use the paintings in Talking with Tebé to teach him or her the names of colors: blue, red, orange, green, yellow, brown, black, white.

2. Teach the names of people and things: woman, man, girl, boy, worker, church, horse, wagon, dress, flower, tree, rainbow, angel, chair, table,ladder.

3. Locate the following paintings in the book: "It's Tour Time"; "Fishing on Cane River"; "Pecan Threshing"; "Cotton Picking." Use them to teach the meanings of these words: above, below, in front of, behind, over, under.