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Follow the Drinking Gourd [Hardcover]

Jeanette Winter
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

PreSchool-Grade 2-- Winter's picture book relates the story of an old white sailor called "Peg Leg Joe" who went from plantation to plantation in the pre-Civil War south, teaching enslaved blacks a folksong that he wrote, the lyrics of which held directions for following the Underground Railroad to freedom. This particular story focuses on the journey of one group of runaways who travel according to the directions of the song to reach the Ohio River, where Peg Leg Joe himself is waiting with a boat. Dramatic full-color paintings and a simple text make this part of U.S. history accessible to young readers. However, its emphasis on the role that white people played in the black flight to freedom make it an unbalanced introduction. "Joe had a plan" appears repeatedly in the text, making it sound as though the idea of escape and freedom originated with him, rather than with the people who were living the horror of slavery. Throughout the story, the people who are escaping are depicted as being wholly dependent on the elements and on the actions of benevolent whites, rather than on their own thoughts, ideas, and decisions. This notion is reinforced in picture after picture, as the faces of the five blacks are wide-eyed with fear while they look for the next sign from Joe to tell them what to do. They never show the expressions of courage and determination that mark the faces of the white characters in this book. Follow the Drinking Gourd is aptly titled in that it presents a history of black Americans as followers, rather than as leaders. --Kathleen T. Horning, Madison Public Library, Wis.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

“A fine rendering of history in picture book format.”–Booklist, Starred

“An extraordinary and inspiring tribute to a unique part of African-American
history.”–Boston Globe

“The artist’s hauntingly muted pictures propel the story forward and make
it memorable.”–Washington Post Book World

From the Inside Flap

Illus. in full color. "Winter's story begins with a peg-leg sailor who aids slaves on their escape on the Underground Railroad. While working for plantation owners, Peg Leg Joe teaches the slaves a song about the drinking gourd (the Big Dipper). A couple, their son, and two others make their escape by following the song's directions. Rich paintings interpret the strong story in a clean, primitive style enhanced by bold colors. The rhythmic compositions have an energetic presence that's compelling. A fine rendering of history in picturebook format."--(starred) Booklist.   --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Jeanette Winter has written and illustrated almost 50 books for children, including Diego, Emily Dickinson’s Letters to the World, The Librarian of Basra, Georgia, and Mama. Her art with flat colors and perspectives in the folk art tradition have brought her many honors. She lives in New York City.
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