A Southern novelist looks to the Civil War’s immediate aftermath in this newly free child’s account of a weary search for his mother.
“War’s over. Government say we free. Folks be on the move. Getting the feel for freedom. Not me.” He joins the large number of ex-slaves who, “all hope and hurry on,” have hit the road in search of brighter futures, but young Gabe has a different goal: tracking down his sold-away and only living parent Rosie Lee. Keeping his goal before him like the fixed North Star, he travels for months from Mobile to the “worn-down toes of the Appalachian Mountains,” following vague leads from sympathetic listeners and offices of the Freedman’s Bureau, enduring hardships and disappointment. Applying paint in thickly brushed impasto, Shepherd views Gabe’s world and encounters from a child’s-eye height but gives the barefoot, raggedly clad boy a look of hard-won maturity that points to past sorrows and underscores the depth of his determination. His distinct voice will draw readers into caring about his quest and sharing the tide of joy that accompanies his ultimate success: “That night, I slept snuggled up tight with my mama, praying for all those boys like me searching for their mamas who be searching for them.”
A deeply felt narrative, distilled from contemporary reports and documents. (afterword) (Picture book. 7-9)