Going North


An African American family becomes a new kind of pioneer

Leaving behind Big Mama, loving relatives, and the familiar red soil and cotton fields of Alabama, Jessie and her family are going north to Nebraska. They are pioneers searching for a better life, one with decent schools and jobs. But traveling through the segregated South is difficult for an African American family in the 1960s. With most public places reserved for "whites only," where ...

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An African American family becomes a new kind of pioneer

Leaving behind Big Mama, loving relatives, and the familiar red soil and cotton fields of Alabama, Jessie and her family are going north to Nebraska. They are pioneers searching for a better life, one with decent schools and jobs. But traveling through the segregated South is difficult for an African American family in the 1960s. With most public places reserved for "whites only," where will they stop to get gas and food?

Lyrical free verse and evocative paintings capture the rhythm of the road and a young girl's longing as she wonders: Will I like it there? Will I like the North?

A young African American girl and her family leave their home in Alabama and head for Lincoln, Nebraska, where they hope to escape segregation and find a better life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

In subtle, cadenced poetry, Harrington brings close the stark realities blacks faced in the segregated South. Lagarrigue's paintings beautifully capture the family scenes...in soft-edged, thickly brushed strokes that heighten the powerful emotions in Jesse's words - the nostalgia, the worry, and the bittersweet hope about a promising new place.
The Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books

Harrington's...attention to detail deepens the symbolic resonance of the family's journey. Lagarrigue's deeply hued, soul-stirring landscapes escort the family...together, text and illustration offer an almost tangible embodiment of the regrets that accompany leaving and the anticipation of better things to come.
Children's Literature
Jessie and her family are leaving Alabama and going north. Bye to Big Mama and the red sand and cotton fields as car tires make the road a drum and a road beat saying good luck, good luck, good luck. The author's story told in verse, along with soft illustrations creates a successful book. Harrington captures the sights and sounds of her text in a rich integration of the five senses. This often forgotten story of the African American family who became pioneers and started a brand new life in the north makes a welcome addition to the growing numbers of children's stories about first hand accounts of the African-American experience. The book is a wonderful addition for classroom teachers in grades third through fifth who want to share other perspectives on American history with their students. 2004, Melanie Kroupa Books/Farrar Straus and Giroux, $ 16.00. Ages 5 to 8.
—Mindy Hardwick
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-This autobiographical story follows an African-American family on their difficult move from Alabama to Nebraska in the 1960s. The journey presents special complications for the young narrator, her siblings, and her parents; they can only buy fuel at "Negro stations" and shop in "Negro stores." Jessie has reservations about leaving all the good things she knows in the South but grows increasingly optimistic about improved prospects elsewhere as she gets farther from home. After several anxious days of driving, the travelers finally arrive in Lincoln, their new frontier. Lagarrigue's paintings are subdued but powerful and well-suited to Harrington's somber, poetic narrative voice. Contrasting shades and changing textures are used to evoke the characters' emotions and to highlight the passing landscape. On the endpapers, an outline map showing the family's journey is painted on a road map, setting the tone for the book. A brief author's note is appended. A solid choice for readers who aren't quite ready for Christopher Paul Curtis's The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 (Dell, 1995).-Catherine Threadgill, Charleston County Public Library, SC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Any child who has ever faced the upheaval of a cross-country move will relate to this gorgeous, autobiographical picture-book poem about an African-American family that moves north from Alabama to Nebraska in 1964. The girl protagonist doesn't want to go-she wants to stay with Big Mama and peel sweet potatoes: "But Going-North Day hurries to our door / like it's tired of our slowpokey ways." As the yellow station wagon heads north (a journey mapped on the endpapers), the girl watches the world go by, thoughts echoing the rhythms of the road: "good / bye / good / bye / good / bye." The family almost runs out of gas because the segregated stations won't serve them, but the African-American-owned Joe's Gas pulls through, and the girl thinks maybe the North will be better "may / be / may / be / may / be." The impressionistic, color-rich paintings are as warm and expressive as the lyrical story, a nighttime view of the car's headlights and taillights cutting the midnight-blue darkness is as stunning as the full-bleed, double-page spread of big sky and cotton fields. (Picture book. 3-6)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374326814
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 9/8/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 778,405
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD700L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 11.25 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Janice N. Harrington grew up in Vernon, Alabama. When she was eight years old, her family moved to Lincoln, Nebraska. A lover of stories both written and oral, she came to her interest in writing through childhood favorites such as Jane Eyre, Charlotte's Web, and the Greek myths she came upon in an antiquated set of the Book of Knowledge encyclopedia.

Ms. Harrington received the Ezra Jack Keat's New Writer Award for her first picture book, Going North. The book, which Kirkus Reviews called "gorgeous," and School Library Journal described as "a solid choice for readers," was named a Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Blue Ribbon Book, a Kirkus Reviews Editor's Choice, and a Booklist Editors' Choice. Her second picture book, The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County, has already received much acclaim, being selected for Fanfare, The Horn Book's Honor List and named a Kirkus Reviews Editor's Choice.

Ms. Harrington is also a nationally known storyteller who has been featured at the National Storytelling Festival, a widely published poet, and a children's librarian with over twenty-two years' experience as a youth advocate. She lives in Champaign, Illinois.

Jerome Lagarrigue received the Coretta Scott King / John Steptoe Award for New Talent for his illustrations for Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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