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Barefoot: Escape on the Underground Railroad Hardcover – January 2, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

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.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 4
  • Lexile Measure: 640L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books; 1st edition (January 2, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006027137X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060271374
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.3 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,357,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Pamela Duncan Edwards grew up in the Wirral, but has spent most of her adult life in the USA. She worked as a children's librarian before becoming a writer and is now the bestselling author of over 30 children's books.

Customer Reviews

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Wendy Power on August 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
I ordered this book to use as a read aloud with my fifth grade's class study of the Civil War. Little did I know that it would be a valuable tool for teaching point of view. This is a wonderfully suspenseful short of a young slave's escape through the woods on his way to the first stop on the Underground Railroad. What makes this story unique is that it is told from the forest animals' perspective. Well written, well illustrated, and destined to become a classic. Wendy
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Wendy Power on January 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As a fifth grade teacher, I am always looking for a book to entice my students and help them to gain background knowledge. This book is a phenomenal find. It puts the reader/listener right into the fear and terror of being a runaway slave from the very first sentence. But, more than that, is the unique way the author has chosen to present the story. I can think of no better book to present the topic of point of view. Not only is the story told from the point of view of the forest animals that the runaway encounters, but the illustrations NEVER alter the affect. Each picture shows the runaway from the eye level/view of the animal that is reacting to his presence. It is a very powerful book.
This story has generated intense discussions as to whether or not they believe the animals consciously helped the barefoot escape the heavy boots, or whether the occurrences were merely coincidental. The students embrace the tone of the book and will often discuss how they originally did not care for the illustrations because they were too dark and made it difficult to see the details, but soon realized that they mimic what the barefoot is seeing -- a potent tool in immersing them in the story.
The students were so enthralled by the way the point of view of the story was presented that they asked to write their own stories based on the point of view of our classroom pet, S'mores the Guinea Pig. Some choose to write from their own pet's point of view. Each and every one of the stories were wonderful to read, and though some may have been lacking in conventions and spelling, EVERY one of them shouted with an author's voice that was astounding.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Gilbert Huffman on September 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This beautifully illustrated story of the Underground Railroad is written so even second and third grade students can read it. In spite of the fact they are too young to understand the complex problem of slavery and the Underground Railroad, this is a wonderful introduction to those sensitive issues. At the same time, older elementary students find is very appealing.
From the first page, students will be fascinated by the story and the pictures. As I shared it with students in the school library, they sat in suspense. Who is Barefoot? Where is he going? Why is is running at night? What are the noises he hears? Will the house be safe? How will be know?
I highly recommend that the book be used by an adult who can answer the questions which may arise when the book ends. This is a book which should be on the shelves in every schol library in the country.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
While I was searching for books to use in a story hour project for my Children's Literature class at Kent State University, my daughter's kindergarten teacher suggested Barefoot. She had used it successfully with her kindergartners during Black History Month. My classmate and I had chosen the Underground Railroad as our theme for our story hour for second graders. They, too, enjoyed this book. I'm a little surprised that some other readers have reviewed it as being appropriate for grades 5 & 6 because the text is so simple. Children in first or second grade could conceivably read it on their own, so I think the publisher's reading age of 4-8 is accurate. However, the topic of slavery is, of course, a sensitive one, one that deserves adult explanation. The author's note on the last page explaining the Underground Railroad and some of the signals of "safe houses" along its route is helpful. The illustrations are quite dark, making the book a little bit difficult to use with as large a group as we had (24 children). Some of them complained that they could not see the pictures. I believe the dark colors combined with the glare from the light fixtures created this problem. We took time to allow the students a closer look at these intricate drawings. The illustrations are complex and would probably best be used in a small group or with an individual child. Many of the children identified with the fireflies in the story and later included fireflies in drawings we asked them to do depicting their feelings about the story hour. I was surprised that the children we spoke to were so knowledgeable about slavery and the idea of runaway slaves escaping to freedom.Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Christle J. Alarcon on September 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is a wonderful story depicting a run away slaves journey through a portion of the Underground Railroad, uniquely from the point of view of the animals who help him. The drawing are wonderful expressions of worry, fright, excitment, and joy. I would advise this book for any child, young or old, and for any classroom.
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