Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Today is a special day as we begin our series of posts in connection to Black History Month as we have announced and posted here. Our host this week for Nonfiction Monday is the lovely Lori Calabrese.

I thought it would be great to begin our feature with an important figure in history: Harriet Tubman who freed as many as three hundred slaves by 1860. The theme for this year, after all, is Black Women in American History and Culture.

Image taken from HarrietTubmanBiography website - click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Lyrical Text (+) Fantabulous Book Layout (+) Kadir Nelson Illustrations = Amazing Picture Book. This picture book does have it all. I love how the text contributed to the overall tone and voice of the book – all sharing the same solid message of .. faith – hope – courage. See-through bold fonts symbolize the voice of God, while words in italics show Harriet’s quiet prayers and chants to steady her soul. Kadir Nelson’s evocative and vivid imageries bring Harriet to life – allowing the reader to touch her face lined with worry and anxiety, her shoulders slumped in despair, her formidable spirit sensed in her steady gaze and hands outstretched in prayer and communion with the Lord.

See how the text seem part of the entire image - making the entire page - text and illustration part of the whole artwork

A Woman Leads the Path. The Author’s Note found at the back of the book provides greater detail about Harriet Rose Tubman who was born into slavery around 1820 on a plantation in Maryland. She was only seven years old when her master rented her out for service to another household. She was around 29 when she decided to run away, seeking refuge in God’s will and her faith that God will see her through. This picture book shows that spiritual journey with Harriet carrying on a conversation with God, listening to Him speak through whippoorwills, babbling brooks, and seeing His face in strangers.

Harriet Tubman in the 1800s - click on the image to be taken to the websource.

I did feel though that the title itself Moses was a bit misleading, despite the fact that it did have a caption underneath: When Harriet Tubman Led her People to Freedom. People who might not understand what the book is about might think that it was a book entirely about the Biblical Moses – rather than a sharing of Harriet’s life story narrative, which in and of itself, is also a fascinating one. As I was searching for more resources for the book, I found one that described her as the Moses of Her People – which I felt to be more apt since it carried that same dramatic flair while at the same time celebrating Harriet’s womanity and humanity.

From Math.buffalo.edu's website - Harriet Tubman as "Conductor" with escaped slaves at an Underground Rail Road station - click on the image to be taken to the websource
Harriet Tubman's strong will - steadfast gaze - immortalized even further through Kadir Nelson's artwork

Lessons Learned from the Past. The book begins with a Foreword that details brief snapshots of information about what slavery means and the entire historical context from which the book is drawn:

Slavery is a practice in which one person, known as a ‘master,’ is allowed through customs or even laws to own another human being. From 1619 to 1865, Africans and their descendants were enslaved in colonial America and the United States. This was the first time in history that enslavement was based solely on skin color. As property, slaves in the United States had no rights. A person born a slave was a slave for life and was forced to work long hours at sometimes dangerous tasks. Slaves who disobeyed could be severely punished.

There was also mention of the Underground Railroad – a network of kind-hearted, courageous beings who helped 40,000 – 100,000 slaves escape and find their freedom – and Harriet Tubman was at the center of this community.

A Painting of the Underground Railroad. Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

I am seeing more and more that as we journey into the darkest waters of the human heart, there are always boats rowed with kindness that shall lead us back to the gentler beats of an unyieldingly-good heart. We also see people who rise up to show that there are always different dimensions and faces to humanity. And that while there is much cause for despair and frustration at man’s cruelty – there is also much to lift our spirits in these stories of grace, steadfast faith, and courage forged in chains of prayer and songs of praise.

Additional Resources. I was able to find quite a number of resources that would serve as supplementary materials for teachers who may be thinking of using this lovely book in their classroom. Here is a downloadable pdf link created by theatreiv.org which includes a brief overview of Harriet Tubman’s life as well as worksheets that can be used in class. This website of teacherlink also has a list of recommended activities that children can do in the classroom in connection with Harriet Tubman’s life. Here is a downloadable pdf link of an interview done by Kennedy-Center.org with Carole Boston Weatherford which also includes a study guide for this book. For more information about the Underground Railroad, click here to be taken to a National Geographic link which showcases an interactive and multimedia format which brings this historical period to life.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman led her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford and Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Jump at the Sun: Hyperion Books For Children, New York, 2006. Book borrowed from the NIE Library.

Caldecott Honor Book and Winner of the Coretta Scott King Award. AWB Reading Challenge Update: 12 of 35

Nonfiction PictureBook Challenge: 4 of 12

Picture Book Challenge Update: 23 of 120

Caldecott Challenge Update: 1 of 24

PoC Reading Challenge Update: 1 of 25

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

30 comments on “Nonfiction Monday: A Celebration of Harriett Tubman’s Life

  1. Myra,
    Harriett Tubman is the perfect individual to feature and kick off your Black History Week. What a remarkable woman and a beautiful book that shows such strength, courage and spirit! Wonderful review with a lot of great photos. – Pat

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    • Hi Pat, thank you for visiting once again. I remember very little of American history so these forays through historical events with the use of picture books are truly enlightening for me.

      Like

  2. Myra,
    I agree with Patricia that she is a great choice to kick off your week. You can’t go wrong with Kadir Nelson either. I like the title since it opens the door to teaching about metaphors.

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  3. I wish I could remember the poem we used for a project back in Junior year in highschool – it was about Harriett Tubman and the underground railroad. I don’t remember the words at all, nor the title! It’s sad that we didn’t really take time in school to talk about the theme of that piece. We just used it for a group project.

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    • Hi Vera, nice to see you back. I think that when the right moment comes all these seemingly-incomprehensible information would return to you and make you realize their significance. There are many things I believe I’ve learned as a child which I may not truly have understood then, I think age and experience provide it with a different nuance somehow.

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  4. Wow, those deep illustrations are amazing. Just a closeup of Tubman’s face is so powerful.

    I always love how detailed your reviews are. The additional information and pictures really make it.

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  5. It’s a beautiful book to start your reviews for Black History month. Harriet Tubman was such a brave soul and must also have been a model for others. When I’ve talked with students about slavery and the Underground Railroad we tried to imagine doing what she did, summoning the courage to help others. This would be a good start in telling her story, with the illustrations by Kadir Nelson so appealing, too.

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    • Hi Linda, I am sure that the discussions you have in class are rich with meaning and brimming with truth and life. I love it when history lives on through the youth with the guidance of wonderful teachers such as yourself.

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  6. Regarding Black History Month:

    In my collection, LIVES: POEMS ABOUT FAMOUS AMERICANS (HarperCollins) the
    poem “The Whippoorwill Calls” by Beverly McClougland appears, about Harriet Tubman: “No one hears her/Coming/Through the woods…; There are also poems and full-page, full color portraits of Langston Hughes, Rosa Lee Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., — Lee Bennett Hopkins http://www.leebennetthopkins.com

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    • Hi Mr. Lee! Glad to see you back! We have close to 75 titles of your books in our community library and we have around 15 in my institution – but I did not see the title anywhere, unfortunately. Is it a new publication by any chance?

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  7. What a beautiful book. Kadir Nelson is so super talented. I’m always amazed at his illustrations!

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  8. Thanks for a great post and for all the useful teaching links!

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  9. LIVES appeared in l999; it is in print. See http://www.amazon.com

    Lee

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    • Oh wow, this is interesting. We usually have a huge collection of books in our libraries here in Singapore. Currently, I’ve been asked to make a list by the Head of Book Council of books that I would like to recommend for purchase in our collection. I shall definitely put this book at the top of my list. 🙂

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  10. Thanks for this wonderful post! I am going to see if I can get this book at my public library.

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  11. MOSES by Weatherford and Nelson is one of my favorites. I love the very raw emotions Nelson captured in his illustrations. A wonderful nonfiction story for children.

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    • Hi Blessy, glad to have you visit. I always enjoy how Kadir Nelson always seems to be able to capture those ‘raw emotions’ at their finest. I agree, this is a wonderful nonfiction story for those who are beginning to learn about Harriet Tubman’s life.

      Like

  12. I never realized that you were in Singapore. You must have a very interesting view of U.S. current events from there. Glad to see that you’re celebrating Black History Month across the globe!

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    • Hi Lisa, yup, I am based in Singapore. But one of the GatheringBooks Ladies, Fats, is based in San Diego, there in the US. It has been a tradition for us here to celebrate Black History Month. Last year we featured African American literature for around eight days or so in February.

      Like

  13. I particularly like the close-up of Ms. Tubman’s face, too. Beautiful!

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  14. Great post. I love the book Moses.

    Like

  15. Pingback: Carnival of Children’s Literature: A February Round-Up and More «

  16. Pingback: Nonfiction Monday: Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson «

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