Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride

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Born into slavery, Belle had to endure the cruelty of several masters before she escaped to freedom. But she knew she wouldn't really be free unless she was helping to end injustice. That's when she changed her name to Sojourner and began traveling across the country, demanding equal rights for black people and for women. Many people weren't ready for her message, but Sojourner was brave, and her truth was powerful. And slowly, but surely as Sojourner's step-stomp stride, ...

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Born into slavery, Belle had to endure the cruelty of several masters before she escaped to freedom. But she knew she wouldn't really be free unless she was helping to end injustice. That's when she changed her name to Sojourner and began traveling across the country, demanding equal rights for black people and for women. Many people weren't ready for her message, but Sojourner was brave, and her truth was powerful. And slowly, but surely as Sojourner's step-stomp stride, America began to change.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
Born into slavery in New York State, Bella grew to be six feet tall by age twelve. With her big strong hands and feet, Bella was a worker to be prized. When her master promised her freedom but did not free her, Bella ran away. Eventually sheltered and freed by Quaker abolitionists, this independent young woman stepped off on her own for New York City, savoring her freedom and deciding she had a mission to spread her ideas under the name "Sojourner Truth." The Pinkneys introduce this fearless traveler to younger readers who may not know about her amazing career as a speaker of truth to power about abolition and women's rights. After a friend wrote down the story of her life, Sojourner carried her published book everywhere and lived on its proceeds. The most dramatic event shown is her appearance at a women's rights convention, where she made a powerful speech in the face of male supremacists, repeating her famous line: "Ain't I a woman?" And then, "Off she walked. Big. Black. Beautiful. True. That was Sojourner." Illustrator Pinkney has emphasized Sojourner's size and strength with bold, sweeping lines in watercolors accented with black, while depicting Sojourner in her customary gingham with a white shawl and bonnet derived from Quaker dress, wearing her big, sturdy boots. Two final pages tell more about her life (1797—1883), including a photograph with Abraham Lincoln. This will be an appealing addition to any collection about African-American women, abolitionists, or pioneer feminists. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft
Publishers Weekly
The team behind the Caldecott Honor book Duke Ellington offers a rousing biography of this indefatigable abolitionist, born a slave. Her parents gave their baby the name Belle: “Seems her newborn's cry was ringing in good news. Nothing quiet about that girl.” Fittingly, the author's punchy, poetic prose is anything but hushed as it follows Sojourner Truth's remarkable life. When her master failed to honor his promise to free her, the young woman “fled like tomorrow wasn't ever gonna come.... She refused to stop until she saw hope.” She never truly stopped, traveling “up and down the land” to speak about freedom, “the fire that burns inside. And Sojourner Truth, she was full of fire.” Earth tones dominate Brian Pinkney's sunlit paintings, which are given loose definition by strong, inky brushstrokes. Truth is often shown surrounded by a golden glow, and the images consistently convey her charisma and conviction, markedly in a riveting recreation of Truth's galvanizing “Ain't I a woman?” speech. True to the spirit of Sojourner Truth herself, the Pinkneys' work emanates confidence and grace. Ages 5–9. (Nov.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—A dynamic portrait of the freed slave whose physical and spiritual strength made her one of America's most powerful abolitionist voices. Andrea Pinkney explains how slave owners saw the robust Belle Baumfree as a profitable asset and sold her away from her parents at age nine. This episode deftly introduces modern children to the "ugly way" of slavery, yet does not frighten them with its chilling details. The author goes on to describe how the very strength that slave owners prized was the free Sojourner Truth's most valuable weapon against the institution. For example, the adult Sojourner Truth did not merely walk away from slavery: "She covered some ground, child. She got gone. She refused to stop until she saw hope." Then her strength allowed her to "travel up and down the land" to advocate freedom. The narrative speaks directly to children in such passages, and the conversational style makes this book an excellent choice for reading aloud. Brian Pinkney's vivid illustrations brilliantly reinforce his wife's lively words. Bold yellows and oranges are his dominant hues, and these colors express hope and optimism throughout. His broad, energetic strokes also echo the title and Sojourner Truth's robust "step-stomp stride." While some of Sojourner Truth's feelings may be imagined, Pinkney demonstrates the depth of her research with a "More about Sojourner Truth" feature. An essential purchase for all libraries.—Mary Landrum, Lexington Public Library, KY
Kirkus Reviews
The Pinkneys (Boycott Blues, 2008, etc.) collaborate on an upbeat yet nuanced picture biography of Sojourner Truth, whose slave name was Isabella. The towering young woman's "size twelves" metaphorically stomp out injustice: "Freedom meant putting her foot down for what she knew was right . . . . She gave her slave name the boot, and called herself Sojourner Truth." Andrea Davis Pinkney's narrative adopts a confidential, admiring tone, tracing Truth's years of enslaved toil, her subsequent escape, deep religious faith and narration of her life story to abolitionist Olive Gilbert. Truth's legendary oratorical skill shines in a dramatic passage quoting her "Ain't I a Woman?" speech (punctuated by her fists' repeated "Bam!"). Brian Pinkney's watercolors, in washes of ochre and slate blue contoured in inky black, utilize a dry-brush technique well suited for depicting Truth's hardscrabble youth and unyielding commitment to justice. One poignant spread shows young Belle, sold away from her parents at nine; in another, the orator's life-size face and raised fist magnify her zealous fight for freedom. Imbued with a righteous beauty-like Sojourner herself. (author's note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786807673
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Publication date: 11/24/2009
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 578,568
  • Lexile: AD650L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney have collaborated on several award-winning picture books, including Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra and Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa. They live in Brooklyn, New York.

Brian Pinkney is the illustrator of many acclaimed books for children, including the Caldecott Honor Books Duke Ellington and The Faithful Friend, and the Coretta Scott King Award winner In the Time of the Drums.

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