Jeb and Mattie, siblings living under slavery on a Maryland plantation, tell their story of escape on the Underground Railroad.
The story, told in alternating voices, opens in 1861 with Jeb, a blacksmith and slave, whose free black co-worker and friend, Sam, is part of the Underground Railroad. When Mattie, a house slave, overhears plans to sell Jeb, the siblings know they must run to avoid their mother’s fate: being sold south. They follow the North Star to Sam’s house—the first stop on the Underground Railroad. From there, the different people they meet along the Railroad—conductor, station master, operative—are introduced, all with their own voices, one poem per spread. Slave owners and slave catchers also have voices, demonstrating historicity with the use of derogatory phrases for the slaves—caregivers should be ready to discuss these with child readers. Day’s illustrations, which have the look of ink and watercolor, are filled with details that elicit a nearly tangible sense of time and place. After many trials and travels over land and sea, the siblings make it to their destination: freedom in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Well-utilized endpapers map the siblings’ escape route.
A good step-by-step portrayal of the dangers slaves were willing to risk for freedom and the complex, lifesaving organization that was the Underground Railroad. (historical notes, note from the author, references) (Picture book/poetry. 6-10)