Bold, Beautiful Picture Book on the Underground Railroad
Underground: Find the Light to Freedom written and illustrated by Shane W. Evans
In this unique picture book, Evans explores the emotional and physical journey of fugitive slaves running to freedom in pre-emancipation America. Evans pairs short, direct sentences (nineteen in all) with bold pictures in contrasting colors: dark blue with white and yellow, orange with brown and green. The portrayals of the trials of escaped slaves as well as a gratefulness for the help of others is achieved in absolute minimalism with phrases like “The darkness,” “the fear,” “Some don’t make it,” “the sun.” His beautiful illustrations pair well with the brief narration, and overall the book is successful and triumphant.
So here’s the problem: while other reviewers recommended Underground for ages through grade 3, I had a really hard time determining intended age range. The language is so simple it might be annoying to older readers, while the emotional and historical concepts behind the narration would be too old for younger kids. That said, it’s definitely worth using if an appropriate unit can be found, whether used as an example of art in story-telling, an early introduction to slavery, or a language examination of minimalism and mood. It’s a beautiful book, and I think it has a lot to offer—the only potential challenge will be application and age range use. If you can use it, do.
For more, listen to the author talk about his inspiration for the words, ideas, and pictures in this short audio clip at www.teachingbooks.net.
Age 6-10 (depending on use)
Copyright January 2011
Image from www.teachingbooks.net
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