cover image Freedom’s School

Freedom’s School

Lesa Cline-Ransome, illus. by James E. Ransome. Disney-Jump at the Sun, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4231-6103-5

The Emancipation Proclamation has been signed; Lizzie’s parents “went to sleep slaves and woke up free.” Now they insist Lizzie and her brother go to the new school built “just for us”—even though it means two less pairs of hands to help out on the family’s meager farm. “Real freedom means ’rithmetic and writing,” Mama says. But the school, its students, and its young teacher (a Northerner who has skin “just as brown as mine,” Lizzie marvels) quickly become flashpoints for people determined to halt progress and justice. This collaboration from the Ransomes (Light in the Darkness) isn’t always narratively taut—it pulls its dramatic punches, and the text reaches for an earnest folksiness (“we both knew that halfway to freedom feels like no freedom at all”). But James Ransome’s watercolors are, as always, emotionally generous, cinematic in their sensibility, and resplendent with gorgeous color. Gradually, the story deepens its hold, and readers will come away understanding why it takes more than the stroke of a pen to give people the justice and equality they deserve. Ages 6–8. (Jan.)