Brilliantly crafted words, both written and spoken, defined Frederick Douglass’ dedication to the abolition of slavery and achievement of dignity for all peoples.
Skillfully weaving together her concise narration with Douglass’ own writings, Rappaport has fashioned an accessible, even riveting biography of the great 19th-century American. Born a slave, he was raised by his loving grandmother until his sixth birthday, when the horrors of plantation life replaced her gentle care. During a brief stay in Baltimore, the wife of his owner taught him to read. Growing older, he was sold to a cruel master and nearly broken, yet he resolved to run away and affirm his right to freedom. Living in the North and in England, he began his crusade, through newspapers and speeches, for emancipation and voting rights. Readers will gain an understanding of and empathy for his resolve and drive. Ladd’s powerful and dramatic full-bleed art is richly textured and detailed. Expressive faces, tranquil Maryland scenes, and battlefields fill the pages. The front cover, as in the author’s Martin’s Big Words (2001), which garnered a Caldecott honor for illustrator Bryan Collier, is a striking full-page portrait. At the conclusion, a double-page spread depicts contemporary children gazing at the likeness of Douglass in a museum, helping to make him a real—not just historical—figure.
A fittingly inspirational tribute to a most praiseworthy man. (author’s note, illustrator’s note, important dates, selected research sources) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)