Under the quilt of night a young slave girl leads her loved ones away from the slave master who worked them: "hoeing and picking, / mending and sewing, / till my hands got raw." In this striking companion to Deborah Hopkinson and James Ransome's Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt
, Hopkinson uses the rhythm of verse to echo the drumming of the slaves' feet as they travel along the Underground Railroad in pre-Civil War times. Ransome's oil painting illustrations are rich with the purple hues of night, and fraught with the tense emotions of the men, women, and children trying to escape--and those helping them. Over the course of the story, the deep purple gradually lightens, as the sun begins to rise and the slaves approach freedom. The final illustration is a veritable sunburst of brilliant orange and yellow. Our heroine's voice "flies up in song. / My own song / of running in sunshine / and dancing through fields. / I'll jump every fence in my way." A truly glorious celebration of the brave souls who kept alive the secret network of people helping others escape slavery. (Ages 5 to 11) --Emilie Coulter
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From Publishers Weekly
Dramatic oil paintings and compelling verse-like prose combine to portray the harsh yet hopeful experience of travel along the Underground Railroad. Hopkinson and Ransome revisit the theme of their first collaboration, Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt. This time readers journey the precarious trail to freedom with a young runaway as she escapes to Canada via clandestine routes and dangerous nighttime treks. The intense opening spread features three panels showing her nameless family running for their lives by the light of the full moon, some shoeless or with only rags on their feet. (Subsequent pages show snarling dogs and overseers in hot pursuit.) The story comes to a formidable climax when they're almost discovered hiding in the back of a wagon. Hopkinson names each segment of the journey ("Running," "Waiting," "Hiding") and her narrative conveys the emotional and physical hardships of the trip ("Fear is so real, it lies here beside me"). The author connects the metaphorical protective quilt of night with folkloric elements (legend has it that quilts with blue center squares indicated safe houses on the Underground Railroad). Ransome fills in the characterizations with portraits that convey a strong familial connection and the kindness of the conductors along the way. This suspenseful story successfully introduces and sheds light on a pivotal chapter in America's history for youngest readers. Ages 5-10.
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