Reviews for Moses : When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom


Booklist Reviews 2006 August #1
Weatherford's handsome picture book about Harriet Tubman focuses mostly on Tubman's religious inspiration, with echoes of spirituals ringing throughout the spare poetry about her struggle ("Lord, don't let nobody turn me 'round"). God cradles Tubman and talks with her; his words (printed in block capitals) both inspire her and tell her what to do ("SHED YOUR SHOES; WADE IN THE WATER TO TRICK THE DOGS"). Nelson's stirring, beautiful artwork makes clear the terror and exhaustion Tubman felt during her own escape and also during her brave rescue of others. There's no romanticism: the pictures are dark, dramatic, and deeply colored--whether showing the desperate young fugitive "crouched for days in a potato hole" or the tough middle-aged leader frowning at the band of runaways she's trying to help. The full-page portrait of a contemplative Tubman turning to God to help her guide her people is especially striking. ((Reviewed August 2006)) Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Spring
Weatherford's poetic telling and Nelson's atmospheric paintings of Tubman's role in the Underground Railroad portray the spiritual life of the African American visionary. From her days as a slave to her life as a free person, three narrative voices (a third-person narrator, Harriet herself, and God's words to Harriet) make clear that it was Tubman's faith that sustained her on the freedom journeys. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2006 #6
Weatherford's poetic telling of Harriet Tubman's role as a conductor on the Underground Railroad combines with Nelson's larger-than-life illustrations to portray the spiritual life of the African American visionary. The story takes readers from Tubman's early days as a slave, through her decision to escape, and into her life as a free person who detested the institution of slavery so vehemently that she returned to the South nineteen times to free some three hundred slaves, including her family members. Weatherford uses three different narrative voices to explore Tubman's relationship with God: a third-person narrator, telling of her life and trials; the voice of Harriet herself, who (in an italicized font) speaks her doubts and pleas directly to God; and God's words to Harriet-"HARRIET, I WILL MAKE A WAY FOR YOU"-set in large, translucent type. The interaction between these narrative voices makes clear that it was Tubman's strong faith that sustained her on the freedom journeys so dramatically evoked in Nelson's richly atmospheric nightscapes. Several key scenes bring Harriet in close visual proximity to the reader to emphasize both her emotional turmoil and her strength. Moses offers a visual and literary experience of Tubman's life on a par with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney's Minty. Copyright 2006 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2006 September #1
In elegant free verse, Weatherford imagines Tubman's remarkable escape from slavery and her role in guiding hundreds to freedom. Diverse typography braids three distinct narrative strands. White or black type delivers the third-person immediacy of Harriet's journey: "At nightfall, Harriet climbs into a wagon, / and the farmer covers her with blankets. / As the wagon wobbles along, Harriet worries that it is heading to jail." Larger, italic type telegraphs the devout Harriet's prayerful dialogue with God: "Shall I leap, Lord?" God's responses to her beseeching questions garner capitalized letters in warm grays. Nelson's double-page, full-bleed paintings illuminate both the dire physical and transcendent spiritual journey. At night, the moon lights Harriet's care-wracked face below a deep teal, star-pricked sky. By day, she disappears: A distant safe farm appears under a wan blue sky; a wagon transporting the hidden Harriet silhouettes against a golden sunset. Unique perspective and cropping reveal Tubman's heroism. Reaching Philadelphia, she's haloed in sunlight. Embracing her role as conductor, Harriet's face, eyes on the journey ahead, fairly bursts the picture plane against a blazing blue sky. Transcendent. (foreword, author's note) (Picture book. 5-9) Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2006 July #5

In this gorgeous, poetic picture book, Weatherford (The Sound that Jazz Makes ) depicts Harriet Tubman's initial escape from slavery and her mission to lead others to freedom as divinely inspired, and achieved by steadfast faith and prayer. The author frames the text as an ongoing dialogue between Tubman and God, inserting narration to move the action along. On the eve of her being sold and torn from her family, Tubman prays in her despair. In response, "God speaks in a whip-poor-will's song. 'I set the North Star in the heavens and I mean for you to be free.' " The twinkling star encourages Tubman: "My mind is made up. Tomorrow, I flee." The book's elegant design clearly delineates these elementsâ€"Harriet's words in italic, God's calming words in all caps drifting across the pages, the narrator's words in roman typefaceâ€"and makes this read like a wholly engrossing dramatic play. Nelson's (He's Got the Whole Worldin His Hands ) finely rendered oil and watercolor paintings, many set in the rural inky darkness of night, give his protagonist a vibrant, larger-than-life presence, befitting a woman who became known as the Moses of her people. His rugged backdrops and intense portraits convey all the emotion of Tubman's monumental mission. A foreword introduces the concept of slavery for children and an author's note includes a brief biography of Tubman. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)

[Page 78]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2006 October

Gr 2-5 Tubman's religious faith drives this handsome, poetic account of her escape to freedom and role in the Underground Railroad. The story begins with Tubman addressing God on a summer night as she is about to be sold south from the Maryland plantation where she and her husband live: I am Your child, Lord; yet Master owns me,/drives me like a mule. In resounding bold text, God tells her He means for her to be free. The story is sketched between passages of prayerful dialogue that keep Tubman from giving up and eventually call upon her to be the Moses of [her] people. Deep scenes of night fill many double pages as the dramatic paintings follow her tortuous journey, arrival in Philadelphia, and later trip to guide others. Shifting perspectives and subtle details, such as shadowy forest animals guarding her while she sleeps, underscore the narrative's spirituality. Whether filled with apprehension, determination, or serenity, Tubman's beautifully furrowed face is expressive and entrancing. A foreword briefly explains the practice of slavery and an appended note outlines Tubman's life. The words and pictures create a potent sense of the harsh life of slavery, the fearsome escape, and one woman's unwavering belief in God.Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston

[Page 129]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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