Love Twelve Miles Long

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Inspired by the childhood of Frederick Douglass, Armand’s debut reveals a poignant conversation between young Frederick and his mother, paired with Bootman’s arresting and emotive paintings. Frederick’s mother works long days as a slave in the cornfields, and the boy lives on another plantation; the story takes place on a rare “special night,” when Mama walks the 12 miles between their residences to visit her son, who listens eagerly as she recalls her journey. She devotes each mile to a different pastime: the first mile is for forgetting how tired she is, the second is for remembering everything about her son, the third is for listening to the sounds of the night, and so on. Armand’s narrative smoothly transitions between each of Mama’s preoccupations: “I pray that one day we will all be free. And all that praying makes me feel like singing.” Bootman (A Storm Called Katrina) deftly uses candlelight and moonlight to give his art a lovely iridescence, and presents intimate portraits of mother and son. A brief afterword provides additional background on Douglass and his mother. Ages 6–11. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Cynthia Levinson
As told in this lovely, dream-like picture book, young Frederick Douglass grew up in a plantation house in Maryland, twelve miles from the plantation where his mother worked in the cornfields. Occasionally, she walked those twelve miles to visit her son and share her love. Each time, she explains to him that she manages the exhausting trek by thinking of something special during each mile. During the first, she forgets her aches. During the second, she remembers her happiness that he is her son, and, during the third, she listens for night sounds. These remind her to look up, during the fourth mile, at the stars, which, in turn, make her wonder, during the fifth, about God to whom she prays for better times, during the next mile. She progresses, with Frederick listening contentedly, through singing, smiling about happy times, dancing, giving thanks, hoping to be a family again, dreaming about freedom, and, finally love. She puts him to bed, and when he wakes in the morning, he knows his mother's love is twelve miles long. An afterward explains that Douglass escaped from slavery and fought for abolition, knowing that his mother would be proud of him. Watercolor illustrations convey the mood and immediacy of each mile and of the mother's and son's brief reunion. Reviewer: Cynthia Levinson
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—As a young child, Frederick Douglass was separated from his mother and sent to live on another plantation. From this slight piece of history, Armand weaves a story that illuminates a mother's love and amplifies the power of the human spirit. As historical fiction, the freedom exists to speculate on what Harriet Bailey would be thinking as, after working in the fields all day, she walks 12 miles at night to see her son. Harriet and Frederick go over the miles like a mantra: forgetting, remembering, listening, looking up and seeing, wondering, praying, singing, smiling, giving thanks, hoping, dreaming, and loving. Harriet shares her life with Frederick as she explains the importance of each mile. Without frames or white space, the spreads are completely infused with deep colors. Readers are in the night with Harriet and Frederick, almost as if nothing exists outside of their warmth. While the visual images are effective, the small font sometimes makes the text difficult to read. Although Harriet probably would not have had permission to leave her own plantation, this account is not about escape, tracking dogs, or slave hunters. As an ode to the love a mother has for her son, it is sweetly successful.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
Kirkus Reviews

Frederick Douglass' mother imparts 12 lessons, one for each mile she walks on her clandestine nighttime visits to him.

The author has taken as her inspiration the line from Douglass' writings in which he remembers his mother teaching him that he was "somebody's child." Douglass was in fact separated from his mother as an infant and rarely saw her. She died when he was 7. In this story, she walks the 12 miles from plantation to plantation and shares with him what each means. The first mile is for forgetting about being tired, and the following miles are for praying, giving thanks to God, singing, smiling, hoping to live together as a family, dreaming about freedom and loving her son, among others. In this, her debut effort, Armand focuses on the positive aspects of maternal devotion and a mother's dreams of greatness for her son. The full-page watercolor paintings capture the nighttime setting and depict a loving mother and child with no overt signs of the horrors of slavery. Unfortunately, the text is sometimes difficult to read on the dark background.

Share this with young readers as a series of homilies on dreams and a family love strong enough to overcome any adversity. (afterword) (Picture book. 3-6)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781600602450
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/1/2011
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 6 - 11 Years
  • Lexile: AD530L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.60 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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