FREEDOM RIVER by Doreen Rappaport


by , illustrated by
Age Range: 7 - 10
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Before the Civil War, John Parker, an ex-slave, successful businessman, and resident of the free state of Ohio crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky (a slave state) and risked his own life to free those still in bondage. Rappaport (Dirt on Their Skirts, p. 64, etc.) recounts one incident in the life of a brave conductor on the Underground Railroad in tones that echo a family tale being passed down. “Wait, wait. Listen. Listen. Only crickets and bullfrogs breaking the silence of the fall of night.” Parker crosses the Ohio River under the cloak of darkness to rescue a captive family. He’s almost caught but narrowly escapes. His breathlessness and fear are conveyed by the rhythm of the telling. “Run, Run. Back to the river. Back to his skiff. Row, row. Away . . .” Parker patiently waits through winter then returns to the plantation. The family he has come to rescue refuses his help. Since Parker’s last visit, the master of the plantation has taken Sarah’s baby away every night to ensure that the family won’t try to escape. The incomparable illustrations by Collier (Uptown, p. 793) are a unique blend of torn and cut paper, photographs, and watercolor that have an almost mosaic quality. An off-kilter placement and a nighttime palette of purples, blues, and black emphasize the precariousness of Parker’s situation. Guardian ancestors appear on several facing pages to watch over Parker’s trials and give a physical manifestation to the readers’ hopes and prayers. An illustrated book for older children such as the audience of Polacco’s Pink and Say (1994), this volume is a model of excellence in picture-book making from the sepia-toned river map reproduction adorning the endpapers to the notable page layout. (author’s note, bibliography, reading list) (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-7868-0350-9
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Disney-Jump at the Sun
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2000


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