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Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

4.6 3
by Deborah Hopkinson, James Ransome (Illustrator)

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As a seamstress in the Big House, Clara dreams of running away to freedom. Then she overhears two slaves talking about the Underground Railroad. She decides to make a map of the land—a freedom quilt—that no master will ever suspect.


As a seamstress in the Big House, Clara dreams of running away to freedom. Then she overhears two slaves talking about the Underground Railroad. She decides to make a map of the land—a freedom quilt—that no master will ever suspect.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A courageous slave girl plays an unusual part in the Underground Railroad; in a starred review, PW said, ``This first-rate book is a triumph of the heart.'' Ages 5-10. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
A first book by Hopkinson, Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, commemorates an African-American girl's making of a freedom quilt during the time of the Underground Railroad. Powerful illustrations by Ransome punctuate this compelling story.
Children's Literature - Deborah Zink Roffino
The powerful collaboration of storyteller and artist stitches together the true story of young Clara's courageous plan to map the route to the Underground Railroad in the squares of her quilt, providing a path to freedom for hundreds of slaves. It's a beautiful book of deep love and faith that will impress and inspire young readers.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
When Clara is separated from her momma on the plantation, she vows to be reunited with her some day. With the help of Rachel, an older slave, Clara learns to sew and learns about runaway slaves, Canada, and the value of maps. Her idea is to use her stitching talent to make a quilt that will serve as a guide for escape. This book presents a little-known story of daring and adventure with paintings that equal the power of the story. 1995 (orig.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-- Clara, a young slave, works as a seamstress and dreams of freedom. Overhearing drovers talk of escaping North enables her to make a patchwork map of the area. When she escapes, she leaves the quilt behind to guide others. Based on a true event, this is a well-written picture book. Ransome's oil paintings, however, are perhaps too smooth and rich for the story they tell. The world depicted is too bright, open, and clean. For example, in the first scene Clara has been put to work in the cotton fields. Supposedly too frail to last long at such work, she is pictured as a slim, serious, yet sturdy girl. The bright yellow sky and the charming smile of the boy with her belie the realities of the back-breaking work. In another scene, young Jack, who has been brought back the day before from running away, looks solemn, but not distressed, and is wearing what appears to be a freshly ironed white shirt. Again, the image distances viewers from the realities of the situation. Clara's escape to Canada, too, is marvelously easy, although she does say, ``But not all are as lucky as we were, and most never can come.'' It is not easy to present the horrors of slavery to young children; thus, even though Ransome's illustrations, and to some extent the text, err on the side of caution, this is an inspiring story worth inclusion in most collections. --Karen James, Louisville Free Public Library, KY
Janice Del Negro
In this picture book for older readers, Clara is a slave in the Big House, a seamstress for the woman who "owns" her. Separated from her mother and desperately unhappy, Clara plans her escape. Piece by piece, stitch by stitch, she maps out the route to Canada and freedom on a brightly colored quilt. No one speaks of the quilt outright, although every now and then someone gives a hint about the route: "That swamp next to Home Plantation is a nasty place. But listen up, Clara, and I'll tell you how I thread my way in and out of there as smooth as yo' needle in that cloth." When the quilt is done, Clara heads for her mother, the Underground Railroad, and freedom, leaving the quilt to lead those who would follow. Ransome's paintings reflect an affecting text, and the faces of Clara and her fellows are well drawn and expressive. The story backtracks slightly as it nears conclusion, interrupting the strength of the narrative flow, but Clara is a sympathetic and determined character not easily forgotten
From the Publisher
"A particularly effective way to introduce the subject to younger children, adding a trenchant immediacy to their understanding of a difficult but important chapter in the country's past."--(starred) Horn Book.

"This first-rate book is a triumph of the heart."--(starred) Publishers Weekly.  

Product Details

Random House Childrens Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.70(w) x 10.50(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Born in North Carolina, James Ransome is a graduate of the Pratt Institute with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in illustration.  While still a student at Pratt, James was one of twelve finalists out of two thousand selected to illustrate the annual Citibank calendar.  After graduation, James continued to study painting at the Art Students League where his entry into the Society of Illustrators Annual Student Scholarship Competition received the Jellybean award.  Currently a member of the Society of Illustrators, James has illustrated numerous books for children, including Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt and Freedom's Fruit.  His illustrations also appear on book jackets, greeting cards, puzzles and shopping bags, as well as in magazines and calendars.  One of James's paintings is in the Charlotte (North Carolina) Public Library's permanent children's book art collection.

James currently lives in Poughkeepsie, New York, with his wife, Lesa, their two daughters, and their Dalmatian, Clinton.

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Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Betsy21 More than 1 year ago
This is a very wonderful book. I would read this to my own children. I love how Clara is smart enough to be able to use cloth to make a map quilt to help her find her mom and find freedom. I also love the pictures in this book. It is a very sweet book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book about slavery, but it is told from the point of view of a young slave named Clara. She craftily gets pieces of cloth to create a map to freedom. My third graders loved the book and the illustrations.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A wonderful companion to UNDER THE QUILT OF NIGHT by the same author and illustrator.