by Evans, Shane W.

A pivotal moment in American history is shared with young readers by following a slave family's escape to the North by crawling on the ground, running barefoot through the woods, sleeping beneath bushes, and eventually reaching freedom.

SHANE EVANS has illustrated numerous books for children, including the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner Shanna's Ballerina Show. He attributes much of his influence to his travels to Africa, South America, Asia, Europe, the Caribbean, and much of the United States. He is a firm believer in education and creative development for all people.

"The darkness. / The escape. / We are quiet. / The fear . . . / We run. / We crawl." With just two or three words on each double-page spread, the minimalist text is intense in this stirring picture book about a family's escape from slavery. Dramatic, unframed, mixed-media illustrations, rendered in black lines and dark shades of midnight blue, show a child's view of fleeing and hiding in the night, when the only light is in the starry sky. Then there is the lantern of a safe house, but also of a slave catcher. Finally, freedom comes at last with the glorious color of the sun's light, and the art extends the wordplay in an image of a joyful family holding up their own son-a baby boy born in freedom. A long appended note offers more historical context, and young readers can go on from here to other picture-book accounts of families torn apart by slavery and those saved by rescuers on the Underground Railroad. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Powerfully expressive imagery will sweep young viewers into this suspenseful journey along the Underground Railroad. Accompanied by a commentary of, usually, just two or three words per spread, the scenes track a small group of escapees stealing through darkness beneath a thin crescent moon. They are seen running, crawling, resting tensely, taking brief shelter with "new friends," then wearily keeping on until sunrise at last brings them to their goal: "I am free. He is free. She is free. We are free." Underscoring the sense of fear and urgency with broad, slanted strokes of thinly applied paint, Evans limns his hunched, indistinct figures in dark lines and adds weight with scribbled fill and jagged bits of paper or cloth. His palette of midnight-dark blue lit only by the occasional yellow torch- or lantern light and white stars draws attention to the whites of the frightened escapees' eyes and makes sunlit Freedom all the more precious when attained. Lengthier accounts of travel on the Underground Railroad abound, but few if any portray the experience with such compelling immediacy. (afterword) (Picture book. 5-9)


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