Priscilla and the Hollyhocks book cover image

Priscilla and the Hollyhocks

  • 799

By: Anne Broyles / Illustrated by: Anna Alter

Based on a true story.

Priscilla is only four years old when her mother is sold to another master. All Priscilla has to remember her mother by are the hollyhocks she planted by the cow pond. At age ten, Priscilla is sold to a Cherokee family and continues her life as a slave. She keeps hope for a better life alive by planting hollyhocks wherever she goes. At last, her forced march along the Trail of Tears brings a chance encounter that leads to her freedom.

Includes an author's note with more details about this fascinating true story as well as instructions for making hollyhock dolls.

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Author & Illustrator Bios:

Anne Broyles, author

Anne Broyles grew up in Tuscon, Arizona. As a child, she loved to read, make up stories about her stuffed animals and dolls, ride her bike, and spend time outside. Books were always at the center of her life, and her mother used to joke that even though the family traveled to interesting places in the United States, Mexico, and Canada, Anne never saw any of them because she always had her nose in a book.

Read more about Anne.

Anna Alter, illustrator

Anna Alter grew up surrounded by beautiful books and is delighted that it is now her job to make them. She attended Rhode Island School of Design, where she studied illustration, then quickly began her career in books at Houghton Mifflin Company in the children's book design department. After learning the ropes, she began submitting her own stories and illustrations to publishers and has been creating books for kids ever since.

Read more about Anna.

Awards & Honors:

  • NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
  • Bank Street College's The Best Children's Books of the Year
  • A MassBook of the Year / Massachusetts Book Award for Children
  • NYSRA Charlotte Award Suggested Reading List, Primary grades

Editorial Reviews:


When Priscilla's mother is sold to a new owner and the two are separated, the young slave girl finds solace in her mother's hollyhock patch. As she grows older, the kind words of a white businessman, Basil Silkwood, instill in Priscilla a desire to attend school, but she is soon sold to a Cherokee family, and her life of servitude continues. As her Native American owners embark on the grueling journey west, known as the 1838 "Trail of Tears," she again meets the compassionate Silkwood, who purchases her freedom. Alter's appealing acrylic illustrations, rendered in single- and double- page spreads and framed close-ups, elevate the emotion of the story and echo the flattened perspective and thick outlines of folk art. Base on real events, Broyles' poetic and colloquial narrative, voiced by a grown Priscilla, ends with the girl sowing the seeds of her mother's hollyhocks near her new home with the Silkwoods and an author's note detailing the historical basis of the story.

Kirkus Reviews

"When I was young and still wore slavery's yoke, I was saved by hollyhocks, and a white man's kindness."

So begins the tale of a little girl, born into slavery on a Georgia plantation. Her mother is sold and the only remembrance Priscilla has of her are the hollyhocks she planted. Old Sylvia teaches her how to make hollyhock dolls and float them on the pond. Priscilla is soon put to work in the big house and meets a white man named Basil Silkwood, who tells her she's smart and should be in school. When the master dies, she's sold to a Cherokee family and is a part of the painful Trail of Tears march. Incredibly, on her way through a town, she recognizes Silkwood and speaks out to him. He follows the march to the encampment and buys Priscilla's freedom. She becomes part of the Silkwood family and plants hollyhocks with these words: "Grow, I sang to the seeds. Bloom, I commanded the plants. Safe, I told myself. Home." Simple, bold colorful paintings enhance a text many young readers will be able to decipher. Historical note and instructions to make a hollyhock doll are appended.

School Library Journal

Over the course of 10 years, an enslaved girl works hard for two different masters. Priscilla, not even six when her mother was sold, shares a bond with Old Sylvia, who helps her remember her mother by making dolls from the hollyhocks that Priscilla's mother planted. The child's dreams of freedom unfold through descriptive language, and their intensity is strengthened by the freedom suggested by these delicate flower ladies gliding on water. While serving her first temperamental master, Priscilla meets a cheerful visitor named Massa Basil Silkwood, who takes an interest in her and does not "hold with slavery." When the first master dies, Priscilla stands on the auction block with hollyhock seeds in her apron pocket and is purchased by a Cherokee master. When the Indians are rounded up and marched along the "Trail of Tears," she again meets Silkwood, who buys her and sets her free. Raised among 15 adopted Silkwood siblings, Priscilla feels the safety of a true home where she and the hollyhocks are free to grow and bloom. Told in descriptive language accompanied by engaging acrylic paintings, this fictionalized story about a real child who found freedom in an unlikely way offers a unique perspective on slavery. No source notes are given, but an author's note adds details about Priscilla's life and the variety of hollyhocks that bear her name.

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Written in a lyrical dialect, Broyle's story of a young slave who plants hollyhocks in remembrance of her mother is based on a true story. When Priscilla is sold to a Cherokee family, she must accompany them on the grueling Trail of Tears, until a chance meeting with a compassionate businessman secures her freedom. An appending author's note details the historical basis of the story.


ISBN: 978-1-57091-675-5

E-book PDF
ISBN: 978-1-60734-105-5
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 6-9
Page count: 32
8 1/2 x 11

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