This Is the Rope: A Story From the Great Migration

Overview

The story of one family’s journey north during the Great Migration starts with a little girl in South Carolina who finds a rope under a tree one summer. She has no idea the rope will become part of her family’s history. But for three generations, that rope is passed down, used for everything from jump rope games to tying suitcases onto a car for the big move north to New York City, and even for a family reunion where that first little girl is now a grandmother.

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Overview

The story of one family’s journey north during the Great Migration starts with a little girl in South Carolina who finds a rope under a tree one summer. She has no idea the rope will become part of her family’s history. But for three generations, that rope is passed down, used for everything from jump rope games to tying suitcases onto a car for the big move north to New York City, and even for a family reunion where that first little girl is now a grandmother.

Newbery Honor–winning author Jacqueline Woodson and Coretta Scott King Award–winning illustrator James Ransome use the rope to frame a thoughtful and moving story as readers follow the little girl’s journey. During the time of the Great Migration, millions of African American families relocated from the South, seeking better opportunities. With grace and poignancy, Woodson’s lilting storytelling and Ransome’s masterful oil paintings of country and city life tell a rich story of a family adapting to change as they hold on to the past and embrace the future.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Woodson’s (Each Kindness) gentle, unpretentious writing and Ransome’s eloquent artwork breathe life into this story of a close-knit African-American family and their pursuit of a better life. The rope of the title is used over and over, tying luggage to the family station wagon when they leave South Carolina, airing diapers outside their new Brooklyn apartment, serving as a jump rope for the narrator’s mother as a girl, then securing boxes as she later goes off to college. Ransome (Light in the Darkness) pays close attention to the details of life in 1970s and ’80s Brooklyn, from the posters on a bedroom wall and silverware drying by the sink to the dubious expressions of the neighborhood preteens as they survey the new girl. The rope that unites the family then passes to a new generation, as the narrator learns how to jump rope, “right here in Brooklyn, just last Friday night.” The chronicle of a homely object in an age of disposables and the sense of place Woodson and Ransome evoke make this an especially strong and vibrant fictive memoir. Ages 5–8. Author’s agent: Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. (Aug.)
Booklist
“Expressive oil paintings illustrate the clean, well-cadenced text in scenes that include well-researched period details. . . . There’s no doubt of the warmth and strength of the family ties that bind these individuals together.”
The Horn Book
“The rope becomes a symbol of family tradition and continuity against a backdrop of historical and social change. Woodson’s understated but eloquent text gives specific details of one family’s experience, while Ransome’s rich oil paintings provide historical context.”
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“Spare, eloquent. . . . A beautifully told family tale about a loving, close-knit African-American family over several decades. . . . The language is deliberate and lyrical. . . . Landscapes indicative both of the changing geography and the passing of time . . . remarkable, with light falling on faces at the perfect angle and facial features carrying abundant emotion. Young listeners . . . [will] be drawn to this warm and hope-filled tale.”
Library Media Connection
“A poignant, realistic, generational story. Woodson masterfully weaves a tale of an African American family’s move from the rural south to New York City. . . . Ransome’s beautifully rich oil paintings add depth and interest. . . . The perfect picture book to include in a study of The Great Migration. . . . An excellent tale to include in a study of family histories. It is a picture book to savor as a read-aloud.”
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
"This is the rope my grandmother found..." begins this story a long time ago in South Carolina. That title phrase is used to introduce each step the family takes from that point on. It ties the family's things on top of the car as they drive to New York City. That grandmother dries flowers tied with the rope, and then diapers. Her little girl, the narrator's mother, pulls her toy with the rope; then, when older, offers it to her friends so they can play jump rope. It ties her things in the car on her way to college. It is part of our narrator's life now, holding up the sign at the family reunion picnic. Finally, it is traded for a new rope, back to Grandma with its sweet memories. Ransome's naturalistic double-page oil paintings echo the text, from the flowers in the small window boxes to the narrator pulling her toy duck to the quintet of girls jumping rope. The details included in each scene all contribute to the appeal of this history of events in the life of this family. Tangled twists of rope fill the end pages. In a note the author adds factual information on her own family migration for background. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—A utilitarian rope-now a toy, now a clothesline, now a fastening cord-ties together this lyrical multigenerational story of one family's experience leaving the South for greater opportunities up North. Woodson's text and Ransome's warm, lived-in oils begin in the sweet expanse of South Carolina, the rich rural landscape contrasted with the busy, populous images of the family's new stone-and-concrete neighborhood in Brooklyn. Every page turn reveals the titular phrase again, but the repetition does not weary as the family thrives and evolves in great leaps and short steps. Significant episodes like the arrival of a baby or the beginning of college unfold in meaningful text and blend with fine splashes of humor; one surprisingly dynamic and evocative spread shows a teenager's room-Prince poster on the wall, Michael Jackson albums scattered on the bed-and the shadow of a mischievous younger brother dashing down the hallway with the rope, needed for "some crazy game that little boys play." An author's note offers a brief familial history as well as a few lines about the Great Migration and supports the text as a resounding affirmation of the journey made by more than six million African Americans in search of change. With characteristic grace and a knack for the right detail, Woodson and Ransome have provided a pleasing portrait of one loving family in the midst of a movement.—Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY
Kirkus Reviews
With great affection, a Brooklyn girl tells the story of her grandmother, mother and a rope that forms a bond across three generations. When just a little girl in South Carolina, the grandmother finds a rope under a tree and uses it to play jump-rope. The rope becomes entwined in the family story as the grandparents, with a baby in their arms, move to Brooklyn, and that baby grows up to become mother to the narrator. Whether used for games, for tying down luggage on a car or for holding high a banner at a grand family reunion, the rope is treasured. Woodson, a Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor and Award winner, has crafted a warm family saga of a household united by love, pride and an uncommon heirloom. The repetition of the title in a nursery-rhyme style will resonate with young listeners. Ransome's vivid, full-bleed, double-page–spread oil paintings create an upbeat, welcoming vista of rural South Carolina and urban Brooklyn. The sun-infused yellows on the cover beckon readers to open the book and savor the "long-ago memory of sweet-smelling pine." A quiet affirmation of a strong and close-knit family that, along with so many other African-Americans, found a better life as part of the Great Migration. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399239861
  • Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
  • Publication date: 8/29/2013
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 77,630
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jacqueline Woodson (www.jacquelinewoodson.com) is the winner of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults, the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award for Miracle’s Boys and three Newbery Honor awards (for After Tupac and D Foster, Feathers and Show Way), and a two-time finalist for the National Book Award, for Locomotion and Hush. Other awards include the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and three Coretta Scott King Honors. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

James Ransome (www.jamesransome.com) has illustrated more than fifty books for children and won the Coretta Scott King Award for The Creation (by James Weldon Johnson). His work has also earned him a Coretta Scott King Honor, IBBY Honour, ALA Notable, NAACP Image Award, Bank Street Best Book of the Year, and Rip Van Winkle Award. He lives in upstate New York with his wife, author Lesa Cline-Ransome, and their family.

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