May 6, 2010

Good books about slavery

There were more books about slavery at the library than any other subject I have ever taught my children. It was overwhelming. I brought home about 40 children's books on the subject (no joke) and read through them all. I did not read all of them to my children, but I did read most of them. These are my children's favorites.

If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine. This is a nonfiction summary of the underground railroad. It is just the right length and just the right amount of text per picture.

Henry's Freedom Box by Kadir Nelson. Gold Star. (That means it was one of our very favorites.) This is based on the true story of a slave who mails himself to freedom. Awesome.

Hush Harbor by Freddi Williams Evans. About a group of slaves who are forbidden to meet together to worship but do so anyway. It was the perfect introduction to a discussion on what masters tried to control and why, and how slaves circumvented the rules. It also led naturally into us learning several slave songs, including "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."

Liberty Street by Candice Ransom. Discussed the importance of reading and why slaves took great risks to learn how.

Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson. The author of this book has slave heritage and the book traces back her history to slave times. It is very interesting/poetic. My kids loved it.

Up the Learning Tree by Marcia Vaughan. The book is about a young slave boy who takes great risks to learn how to read.

A Good Night for Freedom by Barbara Olenyik Morrow. Gold Star. This is definitely one of the best books out there. It is about a young girl who sees two escaped slaves hiding at Levi Coffin's house. When the slave catchers come, she has to decide whether to help the slaves or obey her father and avoid trouble. The kids and I had the best discussion after reading this book about courage and morality. I highly recommend this book.

The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom by Bettye Stroude. One of the better "quilt" books.

Under the Quilt of Night by Deborah Hopkinson. Another good "quilt" book.

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson. Gold Star. Another one of our absolute favorites. This is far and away the best of the quilt books. Clara slowly gathers the information she needs to put together a map quilt to help her escape to freedom. The theme is the same as the other quilt books, but something about it makes it worlds better than the rest. Apparently other people like this one too because it was a Reading Rainbow book. (Take a moment to enjoy that nostalgic rush.)

A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman by David A. Adler. Although there are many Harriet Tubman books out there that have won awards and look all spiffy--this is the best of the lot. I liked it because it was so straightforward. A nice, interesting biography. A lot of the other Tubman books had some gimmick, like flying children (I'm not making it up--you can find the book at the library, but I don't recommend it), or overdone prose that really detracted from Tubman's story. Maybe I'm just picky. Harriet Tubman is one of my history heroes. I'm planning on naming my next girl Harriet after Harriet Tubman. She was an incredible person: unselfish, persistant, brave, independent. You don't need to "dress up" her story to add impact. My children agreed with me--they liked this one best too.

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