Saturday, July 21, 2012

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, by Carole Boston Weatherford

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom
by Carole Boston Weatherford
illustrated by Kadir Nelson
48 pages
New York: Hyperion
ISBN 9780786851751

Harriet Tubman's work as a conductor on the Underground Railroad is depicted as a series of conversations in prayer.

Most schoolchildren will know that Harriet Tubman was an escaped slave who guided other runaways to Canada via the secret network called the Underground Railroad. Carole Boston Weatherford gives the facts of Harriet Tubman's life in her Author's Note at the end of the book, but the story she tells is of Harriet's faith in God and the inner strength that sustained Harriet through her many trials. In two different styles of text, Harriet's prayers alternate with a larger voice that guides her through wilderness, comforts her in times of danger, and encourages her to continue helping others to freedom.

The illustrations are incorporated seamlessly into this text; the deep lines of Harriet's face are present, but so are the sweeping natural vistas behind and around her. Tall trees and vast skies symbolize the powerful goal of freedom. Kadir Nelson's palette is earth-toned, rich and dark, like his award-winning illustrations in Heart and Soul. The final image of Harriet depicted with a staff, haloed by clouds of glory, shows how she must have appeared in the hearts of those who followed her and called her Moses.

The lyrical text is perfect to read aloud to a class of 10- or 11-year-olds, and it suits the average independent reader of that age as well. This book won several awards for its illustrations, and it would fit into a unit on civil rights, the American Civil War, or Black History Month. Students could focus on descriptive language used in the text -- "God speaks in a whip-poor-will's song" and "wraps her in a blanket of night"; crossing a river, "fear washes away"; "the sun shines gold in the trees" when Harriet reaches free soil, and she "feels light as a cloud", but when she misses her loved ones while doing housework, "her family's faces appear in the wood grain". Classes that are discussing metaphor and simile as literary devices would benefit from this book in a lesson.

2007 Caldecott Honor
2007 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award
2007 NAACP Image Award

Author Info
Illustrator Info
Media: pencil, watercolor, oil paint

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