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THE ESCAPE OF ONEY JUDGE by Emily Arnold McCully Kirkus Star


Martha Washington’s Slave Finds Freedom

by Emily Arnold McCully & illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully

Age Range: 5 - 10

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 0-374-32225-2
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Just in time for Washington’s Birthday comes this tale of young Oney Judge, personal slave to Martha Washington, and her quest for freedom. Although Martha treats her well, saying she’s “become like another of our children,” Oney knows better and longs to control her own destiny. When the Presidential household moves to Philadelphia and Oney sees free blacks for the first time, she begins to imagine that this might be a possibility—and eventually steals her freedom, escaping north. McCully doesn’t pull many punches, explaining that Oney’s favored position in the Washington household is because of her light skin, and revealing a vain, self-satisfied Mrs. Washington. The story is rendered in the Caldecott Medalist’s signature delicate watercolors, which revel in the swags and flounces of period detail. Oney herself is a slight, be-freckled figure who gazes out from under her mobcap with determination and pride. Straightforward and unapologetic in delivery, this offering stands as a noteworthy effort to add complexity to the mythology surrounding the country’s first president—a mythology rarely leavened with unpleasant truth for readers this young. Gutsy—and very nicely done. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book. 5-10)