From Publishers Weekly
With a taut, involving narrative and dramatic, shadow-filled full-spread art, the creators of Some Smug Slug and Livingstone Mouse transport youngsters onto the overgrown path that an escaping slave stealthily follows one evening. The sound of the young man's racing heart is almost audible as Edwards describes his desperate predicament: "He was fearful of what lay before him. He was terrified of what lay behind." But the man has allies in the underbrush, creatures that perceive him as "the Barefoot" (in contrast to "the Heavy Boots" who come in angry pursuit). A frog signals the presence of water, which quenches the Barefoot's thirst; a scurrying squirrel turns his eye to a blanket of leaves under which he naps; a deer diverts a crew of Heavy Boots away from this hiding place; and fireflies light the way to the safe house ahead. The vigilant eyes of these deftly rendered creatures peer out from Cole's haunting paintings, cleverly skewed to invoke the animals' ground-hugging perspective on the Barefoot's flight. An author's note at the end briefly explains the workings of the Underground Railroad in helping real-life "Barefeet" find freedom. Ages 5-9.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3. Another outstanding collaboration by the duo responsible for Some Smug Slug (Harper, 1996). Here the tone is serious. The Barefoot is an escaping slave whose flight is aided by the wild animals of forest and swamp. The frog's croak guides him to water, while a nesting squirrel leads him to cover himself with leaves. When the Heavy Boots?slave catchers?draw near, mosquitoes swarm heavily around them and a deer leads them away into the forest. Fireflies light the Barefoot's way to a house on the Underground Railroad and safety while the animals are still alert for another Barefoot. Edwards's spare text builds suspense while Cole's paintings gradually reveal more of the slave and his pursuers. At first, only feet are seen. Though more and more of his body is depicted, it is only in the penultimate double-page spread that readers see the young man's face. Cole's nocturnal illustrations are suitably dark yet they are not difficult to see, and they use light effectively to focus viewers' eyes on specific parts of the picture. Readers will feel as if they are in the swamp with the runaway, their eyes gradually becoming aware of nuances of the scene as they adjust to the darkness. The generous-sized, handsome white typeface is easy to read against the dark background. Teachers will want to use this title with such books as F. N. Monjo's The Drinking Gourd (Harper, 1970) when teaching about slavery and the Underground Railroad, while in public libraries Barefoot will be perfect for programs on African-American history.?Louise L. Sherman, Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.