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Follow the Drinking Gourd
Jeanette Winter

Though Harriet Tubman was the most famous conductor of the underground railroad, others existed also. One was a one-legged sailor named Peg Leg Joe. In Follow the Drinking Gourd, Jeanette Winter tells his story and the story of escaping slaves, Molly, James, their son Isaiah, old Hattie, and her grandson Georgie.

Peg Leg Joe took jobs on plantations doing carpentry. At night he taught the slaves the song, "Follow the Drinking Gourd," which became a map to freedom for them. Once the slaves on that plantation knew the song, he took a job on another plantation.

When Molly's husband, James, was sold, the two of them remembered the song Peg Leg Joe had taught them, they decided to risk their lives to escape. They took their son, Isaiah, old Hattie, and her grandson Georgie and started following the directions in the song based on the Big Dipper. They hid in trees during the day to keep from being found by the pursuing hounds. Peg Leg Joe had left signs of a foot and a peg in different places which guided them.

They followed the Tombigbee River and the Tennessee River to the Ohio River where Peg Leg Joe awaited them. But their journey did not end in Ohio. Kind conductors of the railroad carried them on to Canada.

Follow the Drinking Gourd
Winter's story introduces a historical character unfamiliar to most of us, a hero who shows children that even a person with handicaps can do great things for others. She shows the rigors of the journey, the kindness of others, and the triumph of freedom. She includes the music and words of the song, "Follow the Drinking Gourd," in the back of the book.

Her illustrations are a blend between modern art and cartoons with bright, vivid colors.

Though my first grader read it, it is probably more on a second- to fourth-grade reading level.

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