Oney Judge was considered "like another one of our children" according to the first First Lady Martha Washington, with a few exceptions: Oney would not be allowed to learn to read, to earn money, and would be denied the liberties of being a free citizen. George Washington planned to free the slaves he "owned" upon his death, but Martha Washington had no such intention. Martha was careful to make sure none of the slaves from her household stayed in Philadelphia for longer than six months, lest they be granted their freedom, and intended to trade her servants around, separating their families. Knowing this, her seamstress devised a plan to escape to New Hampshire, so that she could live with a free black family. But even as she tried to live her life independent of the Washingtons, a prideful Martha was hard pressed to give up machinations to get her back, especially once Oney had a baby that Martha considered her "property." Through the cooperation of many diverse allies, Oney repeatedly manages to give the big wigs the slip, but page after page we root for her to find the peace from flight she so deserves. This is a perfect example of a picture book for older kids, a story of injustice thwarted that is made all the more chilling by its basis in fact. (7 and up) Older audiences (11 and up) will want to check out a master of historical fiction's take on the situation, via Ann Rinaldi's TAKING LIBERTY.
Also of interest: HENRY'S FREEDOM BOX by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Scholastic). Being denied freedom upon the death of his master, and being separated from his wife and children, it seems Henry Brown has nothing else to lose. With the help of an abolitionist, he concocts a plan to mail himself to freedom in a wooden crate, which he manages to do after surviving a harrowing voyage. This amazing true story pulls no punches when it comes to the pain this main endured before his decision to escape in this daring and dangerous manner, or the hope that managed to survive in this remarkable man's heart, even after all the unthinkable adversity he experienced. I don't think I could ever love any of Kadir Nelson's illustrations more than I did in ELLINGTON WAS NOT A STREET by Ntozake Shange, however, the power of the oil paintings in this offering is undeniable. (7 and up)
Imagine if you read aloud just one picture book biography to a child every week. By the end of the year, how many new heroes would that child have? How many new mentors? How many figures from history and around the world would that child know? There's only one way to find out!
Picture book biographies are one of the strongest genres in contemporary children's literature. They can be read aloud across the grade levels, and they don't take long to share. Many focus on peacemakers, visionaries and artists. So make a biography break a regular part of your reading routine! Here are just a few to get you started...
Welcome to the Wonderful World of PlanetEsme! I'm a professional readiologist™ who thinks children's trade literature and read-aloud is our best hope for equalizing education in America. I hope this book-a-day plan will be a boon to anyone who would like to play a supporting character in a child's reading life story. This blog is a supporting page to sister site PlanetEsme.com, where you will find a silly amount of additional reviews, thematic lists, links, and much more...everything you need to become an expert in children's literature.