Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom

Shane W. Evans, Illustrator
Shane W. Evans, Roaring Brook/Porter, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59643-538-4
Ebook - 32 pages - 978-1-4299-9185-8
Portable Document Format (PDF) - 32 pages - 978-1-4668-1440-0
Ebook - 32 pages - 978-1-4668-1439-4
Paperback - 32 pages - 978-1-250-05675-7
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With haunting pictures and a few simple sentences, Evans (Black Jack: The Ballad of Jack Johnson) introduces beginning readers to a crucial piece of American history. In darkness lit mainly by moonlight, a slave family is seen sneaking away from a plantation, passing a sleeping overseer ("We are quiet"), creeping through shrubbery, and being greeted by a woman in a skirt and cap holding a lantern high ("We make new friends"). The eyes of the slaves shine with doubt and fear. Dense groupings of figures give a sense of immediacy, and rough charcoal lines echo the rugged paths the group travels. Difficult moments are handled with restraint: "Some don't make it," one page says, as a man with a rifle holds a defeated-looking slave. The slaves press on; the dawn that breaks around them is a metaphor for freedom. A man cradles a pregnant woman ("We are almost there"), and on the next page, he holds a swaddled newborn up to the shining sun in triumph. Telling the story without overwhelming readers is a delicate task, but Evans walks the line perfectly. Ages 4–8. (Jan.)
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