cover image Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth

Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth

Anne F. Rockwell. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-679-89186-4

Though writing in the third person, Rockwell (Bumblebee, Bumblebee, Do You Know Me?) here gives Sojourner Truth an authentic, resonant voice. Ably tailoring her account to a young audience, the author opens her story as nine-year-old Isabella is being sold at a slave auction in Kingston, N.Y., in 1806. The narrative follows the heroine through her transformation into ""Sojourner Truth,"" an itinerant preacher against the evils of slavery. After being denied the freedom that her master had promised her in 1826, the young woman escapes to the home of a nearby couple who abhor slavery; they then buy Isabella from her deceitful master and free her. Rockwell documents some remarkable incidents and demonstrates how far ahead of her time Isabella was: when her son is illegally sold to a plantation owner in another state, Isabella takes the perpetrator to court and wins the boy's freedom. ""No one had ever heard of such a thing. Slaves didn't do such things. Women didn't do such things. But Isabella did."" The author dramatically builds up to and convincingly recounts the pivotal moment when Isabella changes her name and vows to travel the country as ""a voice for all the silent slaves still in bondage."" Rockwell's vibrant storytelling, powerful content and moving author's note will likely send readers off to further reading about this extraordinary heroine. Christie (The Palm of My Heart: Poetry by African American Children) contributes stylized paintings that suggest a complex interior life for Sojourner. The artwork skillfully approaches the abstractDtwisting traditional perspective in a way that illuminates Sojourner's groundbreaking vision and voice. Ages 7-10. (Dec.)