Monday, October 4, 2010

Freedom River (Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Books)

Freedom River (Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Books)

Product Overview

Describes an incident in the life of John Parker, an ex-slave who became a successful businessman in Ripley, Ohio, and who repeatedly risked his life to help other slaves escape to freedom.

Customer Review

Freedom River
By Doreen Rappaport and Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Review by Shelley Styles, Maggie Mathena, and Sylvia Robison

This nonfiction picture book is a true story of one of the journeys made by John Parker, a successful business, into Kentucky to help an African American family escape to freedom into Ohio. John Parker owned a foundry where he employed white people. This particular story began with one of John's employees saying that some one had helped a slave woman cross the river during the night. Another employee answered that perhaps Mr. Parker had helped the woman escape. One of John's employees, Jim Shrofe's father owned slaves. Jim Shrofe taunted, "I dare him to cross the river and try to steal my father's slaves, if he does, my father will set the dogs on him and rip him to shreds."
Although there was a 00 reward for John, dead or alive, he kept trying to help others. In November, John crossed the river and saw a black man in the shadows and told him about his boat to freedom. The man told John that he couldn't go and leave his wife and baby. As the man ran away, a white man swung a club at John, they wrestled and John escaped back to the river.
December and January came and John couldn't get across the river to help slaves escape. Jim Shrofe continued to taunt that John was too scared to mess with his daddy's slaves. John kept quiet, until April. John went back across the river and found the same man and told him that he had come back for him and his family. The man told John to leave him alone because since the first time he had come the master watches them carefully and took their baby and makes her sleep at the end of his bed. He also said that the master has a loaded pistol at his side and would kill anyone who comes after the baby. John went home feeling bad that he could not help this family.
The next night, John rowed back across the river to save the family. They were afraid, so John told the father to hold his shoes and he would go get their baby. Soon John came back with the baby followed by the sound of gun shots. They ran to the boat and rowed back across the river. The man lost John's shoes when he was running.
Soon after John made it home, he heard a knock on the door. It was Jim Shrofe holding John's shoes. He offered the shoes in exchange for his father's slaves. John said that he had never seen the shoes before and invited Jim in to look for the slaves, allowing more time for the family to get a head start to freedom. Jim Shrofe did not show up for work the next day, or ever again.
The author used words like Listen, Listen; wait, wait; run, row to describe how John planned and accomplished his tasks to help others to freedom. She used text to self and text to world to help the reader visualize the events that took place during John's plight. The illustrator used wavy lines across the faces of the characters to represent the river, for the river was the path to freedom.

Poignant and beautiful - Ann Dwyer - Alaska
This book was illustrated so beautifully that I wanted a copy for myself. The story is based on a real individual and that just added to the power of the book. I recommend this book for any family, school or public library.

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