2006 Caldecott Honor Book
2006 Coretta Scott King Award Winner
"MOSES: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom"
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
Hyperion Books for Children, 2006
Picture Book, Historical Fiction, Multicultural K-5
This book is absolutely breathtaking. I do not even know where to begin! First and foremost, the history of the book spreads compassion on my heart and leads me to think about what a brave and courageous woman that Harriet Tubman was. When she decided to run away and try to escape slavery, she did not have any support from any person on Earth. However, she trusted in God to guide her and lead her. Her faith gave her inner strength, peace, hope, comfort, and safety. The way that God used Harriet Tubman to lead many safely out of slavery is absolutely amazing. I can not imagine ever having the courage to return to the South nineteen times to lead her friends-her people-to freedom! She truly was a Moses of her people. Moses led his people to the promised land, the land of Caanan, which the book refers to Canada "cannaanland." Moses' staff also turned into a snake and parted the Red Sea.This is similiar to when Harriet's broom turned into a staff, then a rifle. God was telling Harriet that he would protect her againist her enemies, that no harm would come to her. I think that God's words or voice being bigger and in a larger font helps depict that God is holy and powerful. Every page contains God's words to Harriet as well as Harriet's inner thoughts, fears, and prayers. Therefore, the characteization of Harriet is very developed. I felt a bit like I had traveled the journey with Harriet, through her voicing her inner self and descriptons that are given by the author; "Running through the swamp, she hears frogs croaking and her own heart pounding...in the moon's reflection, she sees God's face." What wonderful imagery! Can't you hear the frogs, feel your heart pounding from being in the darkness of a swamp and then feeling the peace that Harriet must have felt when she saw God's face in the reflection of the moon? I believe that the text alone would capture the reader's attention, because the ongoing conversation between Harriet and God is captivating. Also, Harriet Tubman's story is so courageous and full of meaning that readers would be captured to know the outcome of the story.
There is no doubt that the illustrations are are the heart in conveying the message of the book. When viewing the illustrations, I tried to take in everything; the bright moon and twinkling stars of the night, the expressions of Harriet's face, and every detail of the background. I did not want to miss any element of these beautiful paintings. The illustrations communicate symbolically through the use of backgrounds, colors, shading, and texture. One of my favorite illustrations is when Harriet is hiding in the woods from the men on horseback. The painting is set at night and Harriet is sleeping in the grasses under the trees. The moon and stars are shining through the trees. The mens' torches are shining in the background. Harriet is sleeping peacefully and is surrounded by an array of different animals that can be missed if you do not take your time to look closely! Rabbits, a fox, raccoons, a possum, wolves, and an owl are surrouding Harriet. I believe that this has such an impact on me because while there are men searching for Harriet, she is surrounded by God's creatures, keeping her company and keeping her safe. The text says the "God cradles her." Indeed, this illustration conveys this picture! Each illustration has an impact on the reader. Different emotions are evoked through each painting.
This book is a great way to teach students about slavery. They need to understand why Harriet wanted to run away and why she risked her life to save her people. Students can also be introduced to the Undreground Railroad. I believe that this book does a great job of conveying both of these subjects. Harriet talks of her running away because she speaks of the mistreatment that masters give slaves. Harriet's journey expresses the hardships and fears faced along the way to freedom. Harritet Tubman is truly a hero, a humble, courageous woman who sacrificed her life to better the life of others. She followed her heart and God's calling and truly made a difference. This book teaches Harriet Tubman's journey but also teaches life lessons and is deserving of each award.