Kirkus Reviews QR Code
UNDER THE QUILT OF NIGHT by Deborah Hopkinson Kirkus Star

UNDER THE QUILT OF NIGHT

By Deborah Hopkinson (Author) , James E. Ransome (Illustrator)

Age Range: 5 - 10

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-689-82227-8
Publisher: Anne Schwartz/Atheneum

Hopkinson and Ransome team up once again with a stunning tale about one family’s trip on the Underground Railroad. More accessible to younger readers and listeners, it is a perfect companion to their Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt (1993). Rhythmic prose, combined with Ransome’s realistic oil paintings, follows the family of five as they escape slavery. Short, staccato phrases punctuate the running scenes and calmer, languid prose accompanies the family as they rest during the day. The story moves breathlessly as the family flees, with the slave catchers close behind. The title page shows the urgent racing feet with just the shadows of human forms reflected by the moon, embracing the family in “the quilt of night.” The young daughter watches for a safe house and is rewarded with the signal: a quilt hanging on the fence of a farmhouse. But, instead of the traditional red square in the heart of the log cabin pattern, this quilt has a blue center, signaling a safe house. The daughter knocks on the door and answers with the password phrase, “The friend of a friend.” The family spends a night, then hides in a wagon, and is nearly captured. Ransome’s evocative paintings gradually lighten as the runaways run from the blue-black darkness of the midnight escape to the glorious red-orange morning sky of promised freedom in Canada. The blue doors and windows of the church on the final page echo the blue of the quilt at the safe house, and even the geese in flight celebrate freedom. Hopkinson captures the fear of the escaping slaves, but tempers their fear with the bravery and hope that spurred them on. An author’s note gives further information about the Underground Railroad. An excellent introduction to the topic for a younger audience. (Picture book. 5-10)