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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
The stories surrounding the history of the Underground Railroad are often both heartbreaking and brimming with hope. So, it only seems logical that Deborah Hopkinson and James E. Ransome's sequel to Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt should possess both qualities in abundance. This outstanding book follows one girl as she leads her family from slavery to the path of freedom.
Poetic prose fills the pages of this exquisite book, with the first leg of the journey entitled "Running." This simple title combines with spare text to introduce readers to the beginning of a challenging voyage: "I'm young/but my legs are strong./I can run," the heroine declares. The words are matched with the heart-stopping image of a girl and her family running through shallow water under the night sky. Ransome's brilliant oil paintings bring the story to life. With glorious hues and strong feeling, he shows us the determination and hope of the slaves as they flee from bondage toward freedom. Using the stars as their guide, the family travels northward under cover of darkness and hides out in the forest during the day. Though hungry, tired, and scared, they know they cannot go back. The girl is continually on the alert for signs of help from the Underground Railroad, and she finally sees a woman come out of a house and drape a quilt across a fence while pointedly looking toward the woods. When the girl sees the blue center squares on the quilt, she knows this is a house that hides runaways. The fugitives find shelter and food with a loving white family and gear up for the next leg of their journey to freedom. They are then concealed in a wagon that brings them to a church deep in the woods; there they are given a hand-drawn map to guide them to the next refuge. Feeling closer to freedom, the little girl finally smiles and raises her voice in song, while the sun rises in golden glory.
While the use of quilts in the Underground Railroad has not been fully confirmed, this outstanding picture book is sure to resonate with very reader. Each page resonates with the anguish and hope that filled runaway slaves. Young readers will be entranced with the remarkable text. The breathtaking illustrations offer a closer look into the hearts of those brave people who risked everything to be free. This brilliant and timely tale of survival and faith is a great choice for young readers. (Amy Barkat)