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Show Way Hardcover – September 8, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Kindergarten-Grade 5–Soonie's great-grandma was only seven when she was sold away from her parents in Virginia and sent to South Carolina. All she had was a piece of muslin from her mother, two needles, and bright red thread. She was raised by Big Mama, who cared for the plantation children and at night whispered stories of freedom. Big Mama taught great-grandma how to sew messages and directions into quilt patterns, a Show Way. The quilt-making tradition is passed down through successive generations of women in the family. Finally, readers meet the narrator, who grew up to become a writer and tell the stories of many people's Show Ways. A poignant trail at the end of the book shows eight generations of women and the author's baby painted against the background of quilt patterns. Show Way is a sophisticated book that introduces readers to the passage of time, family traditions, and the significance of quilts and their patterns in African-American history. The gorgeous, multimedia art includes chalk, watercolors, and muslin. An outstanding tribute, perfectly executed in terms of text, design, and illustration.–Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 3-5. A Show Way is a quilt with secret meanings, and the image works as both history and haunting metaphor in this exquisite picture book. Based on Woodson's own history, the unforgettable story tells of African American women across generations, from slavery and the civil rights movement to the present. The cut-out jacket design is impressive, as is Talbott's mixed-media artwork inside, which extends Woodson's clear poetic narrative with beautiful collages that make use of big triangles, squares, and curves to emphasize portraits and landscapes and show connections and courage. The first double-page spread is of anguished separation when Soonie's great-grandmother is sold "without her ma or pa." Growing up on a plantation in South Carolina, Soonie learns from Big Mama about children "growing up and getting themselves free," and also how to sew quilts with signs that show the way to freedom. Time passes: Soonie's granddaughter, Georgiana, has twin girls who march for freedom in the 1960s. The final glorious spread shows Georgiana's granddaughter, Jacqueline Woodson, laughing at home with her own beloved daughter, Toshi Georgiana, whose picture is embedded in a quilt, connecting her with those who came before. A must for the classroom, this story will move many readers to explore their own family roots; link it to the Booklist interview with Woodson [BKL F 1 05], in which she talks about what she owes to those who came before her. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 720L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (September 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399237496
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399237492
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.4 x 11.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jacqueline Woodson's awards include 3 Newbery Honors, a Coretta Scott King Award and 3 Coretta Scott King Honors, 2 National Book Awards, a Margaret A. Edwards Award and an ALAN Award -- both for Lifetime Achievement in YA Literature. She is the author of more than 2 dozen books for children and young adults and lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Every time a children's picture book is published with a plot that talks about the slave quilts that would lead the slaves to freedom, some hotshot reviewer takes it upon his or herself to disprove this commonly held "myth". Because American slaves were often illiterate, coded quilts are part of an oral rather than written tradition. But this is not to say that they did not exist at the time and anyone who offers an absolute opinion claiming this to be untrue should be regarded with a great deal of skepticism. I'm saying all of this because I don't want "Show Way" to suffer the same fate as books like Deborah Hopkinson's, "Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt". What we have here is a true example of 21st century picture book art. Each edition of "Show Way" is like a little museum piece you can buy and share with your children. It's packed to the gills with historical information and containing a story that follows the course of a single African-American family from slavery to Jacqueline Woodson herself, the author of this book. Fast-moving but also strangely touching, "Show Way" is history condensed and made personal. It's not your typical narrative tale, but that works beautifully when you consider the subject matter and scope of the story being told.

Soonie marks the middle of our tale. In this book we learn about her ancestors, her descendents, and the vast history of American slavery and racism. Beginning with Soonie's great-grandmother, we hear a tale of a girl sold away from her family at the tender age of seven. Clutched to her chest are two needles, muslin, and red thread. It was Soonie's great-grandmother who first learned to sew and she passed on that talent to each of her ancestors.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. Allen Greenbaum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
First, let's get this whole quilt controversy out of the way. I mean, I haven't seen this much controversy since the battles over "The Story of Ping," and "Rainbow Fish." Whether or not slaves's quilts sometimes functioned as signposts along the Underground Railroad is not the point of "Show Way," and it certainly doesn't pretend to answer the question. In a way, agonizing over that issue trivializes even more important issues: Slavery and racism, the strength of family and faith, the function of tradition (both written and oral), the beauty of art and the spoken word. Non-Academics interested in the veracity of "showing the way" quilts might be interested in "Freedom Roads: Searching for the Underground Railroad," by Joyce Hansen (Author), Gary McGowan (Author), James Ransome, and available here at Amazon.com.

I said that the book transcends the question of the "show way" quilts, and this is clear from the first scene. The little girl (the author's great grandmother's great grandmother!) sold into slavery--and away from her enslaved family--holds "some muslim cloth her ma had given her." The cloth is her only tangible link to her origins. Quilts and cloth and sewing. The great x 4 grandmother lay on one as other slaves shared stories around a campfire, her daugher--also sold away--took part of her mama's blanket, "held it to her face to feel back home..."Sewed so fine, she was making clothes for everyone in the big house and slaves too," maybe...perhaps making herself valuable to the inhumane but omnipotent "owners."

Hudson Talbott, an incredibly gifted artist, shows this scene against fragmented newspapers advertising men and women for sale, and vignettes of slaves whipped, degraded, and hunted.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By HenderHouse on January 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
One of the few picture books included in the Newbery pantheon, SHOW WAY is a lyrical journey through the maternal family tree of author Jacqueline Woodson. Although not written in verse, the text of SHOW WAY has a rhythm that would lend itself to reading aloud. And the story honestly -- but not too graphically -- depicts the tragedies and triumphs of the civil rights struggle of African-Americans. Quilts - or show ways - are the thread tying this story together and, as might be imagined, the illustrations are just as powerful as the text; the words and images are joined together to form a stronger whole. Pair this book with Betsy Hearne's SEVEN BRAVE WOMEN. 2006 Newbery Honor Book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. LaFay on May 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is wonderfully written and beautiful illustrated. Jacqueline Woodson has a way with words that's moving and lyrical. Hudson Talbott's illustrations capture the periods the book moves through perfectly.

It's an amazing book for people of all ages and should be read in every classroom. It covers a wide range of issues from slavery to civil rights, family histories to passing traditions down the generations.

The book itself has large print and colorful imagery on glossy pages; it's easy to read. The front cover has a picture window that peeks in on the title page.

I'd recommend this excellent book to anyone. If you have the chance, go to a Jacqueline Woodson reading and request Show Way; hearing her read it aloud is an entirely different and wonderful experience.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By S. Gentry on April 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
From cover cutout to the final page, this Newbury Honor winning celebration of an African-American matrilineal history by Jacqueline Woodson will captivate readers. The stunning illustrations by Hudson Talbott, created in chalk, watercolors, and fabric, appear to jump off the page with depth and vibrancy. Particularly, threads of a pieced fabric map of the war-torn USA are near-tangible with their contrast and texture; a bullet-shot scrap of fabric in the corner holds the date of freedom: 1863. The glowing colors of the art, and the obvious love of the mothers expressed within it, soften the edge of some hard hitting truths regarding the realities of slavery in early America, including family members whose names "history went and lost" and others sold to other plantations at the age of the putative reader: seven. The readers will follow eight generations of Woodson's female ancestry through slavery, emancipation, sharecropping, and the Civil Rights movement. As not every character has an explicit name, the final page, showing a family tree on the tail of a long snaking quilt, is helpful to keep the mentioned characters straight.

The art of quilt-making is deeply woven into the story. Literally, a "Show Way" is presented as a quilt that holds secrets about routes to freedom, but the metaphor is inescapable; these early mothers show the way for their daughters to grow and stretch with a changing society. In turn the book itself shows a way to approach a potentially difficult subject. This may be a book parents want to read alone first, as it is sure to provoke some hard-to-answer questions about its content. The background of some pages features period artwork and newspaper cuttings of slave auctions, rewards for captured slaves, and no less than three representations of slave beatings.
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