When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom
Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This beautiful Caldecott Honor Book shows how Harriet Tubman's relationship with God led to her becoming Moses to the slaves who sang her praises. The story begins with Harriet praying about her master's plan to sell her south and her husband's refusal to help her escape. She leans on God's answer during her prayer to decide the issue. As she makes her way north, God leads and sustains her, even when she suspects that those who are helping her may betray her. God's promises see her through.
In her deep loneliness for her family she prays for their release. When God directs her to help runaways through the church in preparation for rescuing her family, she obeys immediately. Though we see only a glimpse of her rescues, that glimpse is sufficient to inspire us.
Weatherford's narrative of the interaction between God and Harriet with the few words a children's book allows is masterful. Though fiction, Weatherford based her account on Harriet's description of her visions and communication with God. The type and art flow together. Creative fonts for God's words combine with Kadir Nelson's gorgeous paintings, most in dark colors, to enrich and complete the book's powerful message of this remarkable woman. One page shows a worn-out Harriet kneeling and looking toward heaven as she prays for help. God's answer is written to her on the swirl of her dress around her.
Nelson's close-ups of Harriet spell out her character and are beautifully done, fully detailing her humanity. Alternating (or nearly alternating) distant pictures, such as one with her in a small boat at night, with close-ups of Harriet carry the message of the burdens of her journey, the exhaustion, the fear, the loneliness, and the courage along with the sublime presence of God. This book well deserves the Caldecott Honor Book award.
It also deserves a place in homes, schools, homeschools, and churches.
My first-grade daughter, who is a good reader, rifled through my library bag and read it by herself before I read it to her. Children in the second through fourth grades should be able to enjoy it on their own. The large format and relatively few words make it a good read-aloud choice for a group though some teachers will be put off because of the religious content. This beautiful, hardcover book is not to be missed!
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