cover image The Foot Warmer and the Crow

The Foot Warmer and the Crow

Evelyn Coleman. MacMillan Publishing Company, $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-02-722816-8

Hezekiah, identified not as a slave but an ``enslaved man,'' dreams of being ``free like a bird.'' After his escape attempt is thwarted by a band of snapping dogs, Hezekiah takes a tip from a wise crow and resolves to discover the slave master's weaknesses and through them find a way to freedom. So he offers his services as a foot warmer, spending the cold winter nights under the ""smelly covers'' of Master Thompson's bed, listening carefully as the white man spills secrets in his sleep. When spring comes, Hezekiah knows his master's deepest fear and leaps from this knowledge to freedom. Coleman's elegantly told tale emphasizes the importance of self-respect while decrying the injustice of slavery. Debut illustrator Minter's bold art has the air of suspended animation, of deep emotion frozen and distilled until it verges on the extreme. Facial expressions are often grotesque, an odd combination of hilarity and fear, capturing the book's sadness as well as its fundamental optimism. Ages 6-up. (Sept.)