From School Library Journal
Grade 3–6—A slave mother creates a quilt to guide and comfort her young daughter, whom she is sending to freedom along the Underground Railroad. In a straightforward, heartfelt story written in dialect, Hegamin shows that a woman can love her child dearly yet still give her up, in the youngster's best interest. An author's note explains that debates over the authenticity of quilts used as maps continue; Hegamin states that she used the quilt as a symbol and story device. The artwork matches the tone of the story well, featuring dark images interspersed with quilted blocks that bring brightness to the primitive-style paintings. Patchwork endpapers that incorporate recognizable quilt blocks add to the homespun feel of the story. Paired with Deborah Hopkinson's Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt
(Knopf, 2003), this book would be a useful discussion point for supplementing Underground Railroad units.—Angela J. Reynolds, Annapolis Valley Regional Library, Bridgetown, NS, Canada
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A young girl knows that “Mama works hard in the field,” but the full reality of their lives as slaves is unclear to her. She knows Mama picks cotton; she knows she salves Mama’s hands at night. She also knows that Mama has been spending a lot of time lately cutting pieces of cloth to stitch together pictures for a quilt. After coming home one night bloody from a whipping, Mama removes her ruined red shirt and cuts from it a heart, adding it to her designs. A late-night rendezvous reveals that the quilt’s images are to serve as instructions to help the daughter escape through the Underground Railroad: “a log cabin for safety / a star to follow / moss on the trees to lead. / And in the middle, a little girl so happy, surrounded by a worn and tattered heart.” Cabrera’s artwork matches textured, muddy paintings—the dark, anonymous dots of hunched cotton pickers is particularly affecting—with swaths of appropriately distressed cloth. An educational author’s note caps off this haunting yet hopeful presentation. Grades K-2. --Daniel Kraus