A girl’s family life and plantation routines are interrupted when three enslaved boys run away.
Most days start the same way: The bell rings, Daddy collects wood, Mama prepares breakfast, they eat together. The narrator’s brother, Ben, her parents, and the other slaves go to the fields while the girl stays with the young ones to play. On Wednesday, Ben surprises her with a handmade doll. On Thursday, Ben and his two friends are gone. There are tears; the narrator’s parents are beaten, and other slaves look mad or sad. On Friday, the girl cannot eat or talk. On Saturday, there are horses and dogs; Ben’s friends have been caught, but there is no sign of Ben. “Out comes the whip. / All night we cry and pray for Ben.” On Sunday, Big Sam preaches near the creek, “of being free. / We sing. / We hope. / We pray / Ben made it. / Free like the birds. / Free like Moses. / No more bells.” The final spread shows the girl looking out, with the single word “Monday…” and a bird flying away on the endpaper. The richly textured paintings make masterful use of light and space to create the narrator’s world and interior life, from the glimmer of dawn as her father chops wood to her mother’s fatigue and her own knowing eyes. Ransome’s free-verse text is as accomplished as his glowing acrylics.
With spare text and gorgeous illustrations, this work represents a unique and engaging perspective on enslaved families. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)