cover image Most Loved in All the World: A Story of Freedom

Most Loved in All the World: A Story of Freedom

Tonya Cherie Hegamin, , illus. by Cozbi A. Cabrera. . Houghton Mifflin, $17 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-6184-1903-6

Hegamin (M+0 4EVR ) tackles difficult concepts of slavery, courage and sacrifice in a poignant book about a mother who sends her daughter on the Underground Railroad, armed with a quilt she has made for her; the mother, identifying herself as an “agent,” stays behind to help other slaves escape. The quilt’s centerpiece depicts a smiling girl: the mother wants her daughter to remember always that she is “the most loved in all the world.” The story of slaves finding their way to freedom via directions disguised in patchwork (whether or not this happened is still debated, the author explains in an endnote) is made freshly dramatic by Hegamin’s focus on the separation of mother and child. Cabrera’s (Beauty, Her Basket ) broad sweeping paintings—filled with shadowy images, occasionally bordering on the abstract, with some pages merely washes of color—add a deeper note of somberness to the spare text, told in a child’s voice. The narrator’s report that “when Mama come home/ she have whip marks ’cross her back” and “tear marks down her face” may call for explanation, but young readers will share her shock at her mother’s final action and sympathize with her grief. Ages 4–8. (Jan.)