From the Publisher
“A powerful new picture book. Watercolor paintings . . . match the mood and theme.” The Chicago Sun-Times
“Words and pictures work perfectly together, making sound from silence and light from darkness.” Booklist, Starred Review
“Lewis's watercolors beautifully capture the loving relationship between Granny Judith and Christmas John. . . . Handsome and affecting.” Kirkus Reviews
“A rich story for adults and children to share.” School Library Journal
“The runaways' success is joyfully triumphant, but perhaps the most moving aspect of the work is Lewis's watercolor paintings, which skillfully manipulate light and shadow to create two parallel worlds.” The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz
Inspired by an account from the WPA's Slave Narrative Collection, Raven writes as twelve-year-old Christmas John. He lives with his Granny Judith, who asks him one night to row young Molly to freedom across the river from Kentucky to Ohio. Terrified at being caught by the overseer, John rows and prays. He then begins to help others to escape. Each time Granny Judith asks him what colors were worn; they are the colors of freedom to her. Granny Judith dyes her threads in those colors to make a quilt, "like a rainbow bridge." When John must leave because it has become too risky for him to sneak away, Granny fears that she will slow him down, but he won't go without her. Reaching Ohio, she spreads her quilt behind her and declares triumphantly that they are "all the colors of freedom." Over a cover of elegantly blind-stamped board, the jacket displays a watercolor portrait of our determined young hero. The full- and double-page scenes inside are true to this emotion as they portray the indomitable characters. The textless image of Granny Judith as a betrayed young girl sitting in despair beside the slave ship is particularly moving. The naturalistic scenes exude the fear of the escape in the dark and the renewed resolution by firelight. Additional information is offered in an Author's Note.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-6-Christmas John, 12, lives in a pine-board cabin with Granny Judith, who was enslaved when strangers lured her to their ship with a piece of red flannel. Now on a plantation in Kentucky, Granny Judith and Christmas John help others escape across the river to the free state of Ohio by taking advantage of John's youth-he's young enough to avoid notice, and old enough to row a boat across and back. Granny Judith stitches a quilt, incorporating the colors the escapees wear. "What color is freedom tonight?" As the quilt approaches completion and the risks grow, the time comes for their own escape. Based on several different narratives from the Federal Writers' Project Slave Narrative Collection, Raven's moving story is full of particulars that lend it authenticity. Lewis's realistic watercolors use texture and shadow to an impressionistic effect, communicating the utter darkness in which Christmas John works, and the emotion contained in a single color. An author's note shows how Raven pieced together her story like Granny Judith's quilt, lending a context that makes this a rich story for adults and children to share.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Drawing from hundreds of histories recorded in the Federal Writers' Project's Slave Narrative Collection, Raven quilts a composite tale set on the border between Kentucky-a slave state-and free Ohio. Granny Judith, a slave who dyes thread and weaves cloth, asks 12-year-old Christmas John, who she's raised, to do a brave thing: row a slave girl across the Ohio River to freedom. The boy repeats this act (historically, over four years' time) until it's too dangerous to continue. Raven both highlights the historical import of fabric arts in slave life and incorporates them metaphorically. Granny Judith, giving Christmas John a handmade shirt dyed "turkey red," his "freedom color," bids him to save himself. He returns from the river and collects the old woman, declaring, "Freedom's got no color for me without you." Multiple-award-winner Lewis's watercolors beautifully capture the loving relationship between Granny Judith and Christmas John, who he portrays as a strong adolescent grown bigger than his caregiver. He effectively paints the many moonless nightscapes, mist shrouding the fleeing figures. Handsome and affecting. (author's note) (Picture book. 6-9)