Sure Hands, Strong Heart Critical Essays

Lillie Patterson


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

There are several reasons that Patterson’s study of Williams should appeal to young readers. First, she writes in a style that is easy to read but somewhat challenging. She has also included some illustrations that attempt to make Williams more likable and “human.” He is shown as a musician, a young dancer, a physician questioning his patients, a surgeon performing a heart operation, and an older man enjoying the company of children.

Second, Patterson is examining a successful American who happened to be an African American. Her approach will appeal to young readers regardless of their race because she minimizes the role of prejudice as an obstacle in Williams’ life. Indeed, Williams faced problems that have confronted the majority of Americans, past and present. He had to adjust to life after the death of his father, a temporary separation from his mother and siblings, and being trapped in a course of a study that did not appeal to him. His handling of these obstacles gives Patterson an opportunity to reveal Williams’ inner strengths. She portrays him as a rather daring youth who decided to run away from Annapolis and a boring shoe repair business in order to join his mother in Illinois. He successfully found his way to her even though she lived in a town that was unfamiliar to him.

Young Williams, however, believed that he could improve his life if he moved elsewhere. He and his older sister set out for Wisconsin, where his barbering skills, musical...

(The entire section is 607 words.)