cover image Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom

Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom

Tim Tingle, , illus. by Jeanne Rorex Bridges. . Cinco Puntos, $17.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-938317-77-7

Bridges, a Cherokee artist making her children's book debut, joins Tingle (Walking the Choctaw Road ) in a moving and wholly original story about the intersection of cultures. The river Bok Chitto divides the Choctaw nation from the plantations of Mississippi. "If a slave escaped and made his way across Bok Chitto, the slave was free," writes Tingle, "The slave owner could not follow. That was the law." But Bok Chitto holds a secret: a rock pathway that lies just below the surface of the water. "Only the Choctaws knew it was there, for the Choctaws had built it," Tingle explains. When a slave boy and his family are befriended by a Choctaw girl, the pathway becomes part of an ingenious plan that enables the slaves to cross the river to freedom—in plain view of a band of slave hunters during a full moon. Bridges creates mural-like paintings with a rock-solid spirituality and stripped-down graphic sensibility, the ideal match for the down-to-earth cadences and poetic drama of the text. Many of the illustrations serve essentially as portraits, and they're utterly mesmerizing—strong, solid figures gaze squarely out of the frame, beseeching readers to listen, empathize and wonder. Ages 5-up. (Apr.)