When children see Harriet Tubman on the new U.S. postage stamp, they can learn of her legacy from this literary homage to “the Moses of her people.”
A compilation of 13 Negro spirituals that originated in American slavery, this volume offers sheet music for each song alongside a brief commentary about its biblical and/or historical origins. Wood accompanies each song with colorful images that echo the slave past and both identify some of the hardships faced and also point to rays of hope that existed for them. In several of these commentaries, Grady asks readers questions to encourage them to explore the images more closely or to think more deeply about what it might have meant to be enslaved. On nearly every page appears a white dove, which echoes Harriet Tubman’s dreams of flying “over the landscape ‘like a bird’ ” to freedom. Unlike the portrayal of slaves in a few recent controversial picture books, the slaves depicted here rarely smile and often look distraught and somber—except on the page accompanying the final freedom song. In addition to learning about Tubman, readers will glean important historical tidbits about others such as Nat Turner, James Lafayette, abolitionist John Rankin, and Abraham Lincoln. Backmatter offers further reading suggestions, a glossary of relevant terms, and websites.
An important work that gives new life to old and important songs. (Informational picture book. 5-10)