cover image Barefoot: Escape on the Underground Railroad

Barefoot: Escape on the Underground Railroad

Pamela Duncan Edwards. Katherine Tegen Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-027137-4

With a taut, involving narrative and dramatic, shadow-filled full-spread art, the creators of Some Smug Slug and Livingstone Mouse transport youngsters onto the overgrown path that an escaping slave stealthily follows one evening. The sound of the young man's racing heart is almost audible as Edwards describes his desperate predicament: ""He was fearful of what lay before him. He was terrified of what lay behind."" But the man has allies in the underbrush, creatures that perceive him as ""the Barefoot"" (in contrast to ""the Heavy Boots"" who come in angry pursuit). A frog signals the presence of water, which quenches the Barefoot's thirst; a scurrying squirrel turns his eye to a blanket of leaves under which he naps; a deer diverts a crew of Heavy Boots away from this hiding place; and fireflies light the way to the safe house ahead. The vigilant eyes of these deftly rendered creatures peer out from Cole's haunting paintings, cleverly skewed to invoke the animals' ground-hugging perspective on the Barefoot's flight. An author's note at the end briefly explains the workings of the Underground Railroad in helping real-life ""Barefeet"" find freedom. Ages 5-9. (Jan.)