When Harriet Met Sojourner

When Harriet Met Sojourner

by Catherine Clinton, Shane W. Evans
     
 

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Two women with similar backgrounds. Both slaves; both fiercely independent. Both great, in different ways.

Harriet Tubman: brave pioneer who led her fellow slaves to freedom, larger than life . . . yearning to be free.

Sojourner Truth: strong woman who spoke up for African American rights, tall as a tree . . . yearning to be free.

One day in 1864, the

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Overview

Two women with similar backgrounds. Both slaves; both fiercely independent. Both great, in different ways.

Harriet Tubman: brave pioneer who led her fellow slaves to freedom, larger than life . . . yearning to be free.

Sojourner Truth: strong woman who spoke up for African American rights, tall as a tree . . . yearning to be free.

One day in 1864, the lives of these two women came together. When Harriet Met Sojourner is a portrait of these two remarkable women, from their inauspicious beginnings to their pivotal roles in the battle for America's future.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Although the title raises different expectations, Clinton and Evans (previously paired for Hold the Flag High) deliver gripping parallel portraits of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, two remarkable women born into slavery whose paths cross here only on the final pages, in a meeting about which the author can do no more than speculate. Alternating between the two subjects, Clinton underscores their courage, perseverance and passion as each obtains her individual freedom and then campaigns against slavery. A personal tone and specific facts bring home the experience of slavery for the target audience without diluting too much of the horror but also without introducing concepts beyond their grasp: "Araminta's [Harriet Tubman's] parents loved and cherished their sons and daughters but could not protect them.... Two of her sisters were snatched away, stolen off and sold South-they were gone but never forgotten." As Harriet Tubman sews a quilt, Clinton notes, "like the quilt she worked on, one square at a time, she pieced together her plans for running off to the North." Evans builds on this motif, re-creating the appearance of stitches alongside his mixed-media compositions so that they look basted onto the background, itself resembling a collection of light-colored quilt squares and quilt tops. Some illustrations incorporate fabric scraps, subtly reinforcing the ideas that each woman assembled her own future, and that history can be made from the meeting, or joining together, of influential and inspiring people. Ages 5-7. (Nov.)

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Children's Literature
Two strong, independent female ex-slaves, Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, did meet once, in 1864. From this meeting, Clinton goes back to trace their histories up to that point. Both went through hard years of slavery. Sojourner Truth, born Isabella Bomefree in New York state, finally walked away from her master and took her new name as a symbol of freedom. Harriet Tubman, born Araminta in Maryland, took her new name when she escaped to the north. Harriet worked at helping other escape, while Sojourner lectured, preaching for the freedom of both slaves and women. Clinton can only imagine the meeting; there is no authoritative written account. Evans reinforces the emotional strength of the text with boldly-stylized portraits of the women as introduced on the cover, as well as close-ups of people. There�s a sculptural solidity to the figures, even in more symbolic, spiritual scenes such as that of Sojourner cradling an infant against a starry sky filled with birds. The text is �stitched� to the illustrations like the quilts in Harriet�s history. A brief epilogue recounts the two women�s lives after their meeting. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal

Gr 3-7- This powerful picture book relates the lives of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth on alternating pages, leading up to the women's meeting in Boston in 1864. Many parallels are drawn between these two legendary figures born about 25 years apart and in different areas of the country. Compellingly told with a sure storyteller's cadence, Clinton's chronicle does not spare readers the harshness of the subjects' young years; they suffered beatings, witnessed siblings and family members sold away, endured hard labor, and risked everything for freedom. Both women renamed themselves, taking ownership of their lives and leading and inspiring others on the road to freedom. Evans uses strong outlines to create striking images in rich earth tones. A patchwork motif pieces the text panels and illustrations together with stitches, echoing the quilts mentioned in the text. One expressive illustration depicts young Harriet Tubman with her arms stretched out against a tree whose branches are filled with birds, as she dreams of flying to freedom. The visual parallel is an image of Truth cradling a baby with a bird-filled tree behind her, yearning for freedom for herself and her children. No reports or notes exist from their meeting, so unfortunately the climactic event in this book is all conjecture. An epilogue briefly outlines the rest of their lives, but no source notes are given. Nonetheless, this is a beautiful, uplifting book that is sure to inspire interest in these strong, amazing women.-Robin L. Gibson, Granville Parent Cooperative Preschool, OH

Kirkus Reviews
A patchwork motif visually pieces together the stories of the two redoubtable abolitionists, who met only once-in Boston in 1864-but who shared a passionate mission. Side text panels relate, in alternating spreads, the lives of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. Clinton uses vivid language to sketch the broad outlines of their beginnings in slavery and their later careers as speaker for abolition and conductor on the Underground Railroad: "Isabella [Sojourner Truth] was tired of waiting, and broke the chains herself. She walked out and left slavery behind." Evans's mixed-media illustrations cleanly incorporate such textures as fabric and broad paint strokes, individual figures outlined with quick black lines that provide definition. The images themselves are expressive-a monumental Truth cradles a baby, a confident-looking Tubman holds a Union courier bag against a Stars-and-Stripes backdrop-and are "stitched" to the text panels. The actual meeting takes up only three spreads and is of necessity imagined (there is no written account), which results in something of an anticlimax, given the build-up. It's a nifty idea, but, alas, the vessel is somewhat stronger than its story. (Picture book/fictionalized nonfiction. 7-10)
ALA Booklist
“The compelling parallel narratives of two women ‘joined by a kinship of spirit’ still add up to a stirring history.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060504267
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/16/2007
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
10.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.25(d)
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

Meet the Author

Catherine Clinton is the author of Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom and Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars. Educated at Harvard, Sussex, and Princeton, she is a member of the advisory committee to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and holds a chair in U.S. history at Queen's University Belfast.

Shane W. Evans is the illustrator of more than thirty picture books for children, including The Way a Door Closes by Hope Anita Smith, a Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award winner, and the author and illustrator of Olu's Dream. He has exhibited his art in West Africa and Paris and in Chicago, New York, and other major U.S. cities. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where he runs Dream Studio, a community art space.

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