Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

  • Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

July 10, 1995
Dragonfly Books
Ages 4-8
IRA Children's Book Award
Reading Rainbow

A young slave stitches a quilt with a map pattern which guides her to freedom in the North.

Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
A courageous slave girl plays an unusual part in the Underground Railroad; in a starred review, PW said, "This first-rate book is a triumph of the heart." Ages 5-10. Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3-- Clara, a young slave, works as a seamstress and dreams of freedom. Overhearing drovers talk of escaping North enables her to make a patchwork map of the area. When she escapes, she leaves the quilt behind to guide others. Based on a true event, this is a well-written picture book. Ransome's oil paintings, however, are perhaps too smooth and rich for the story they tell. The world depicted is too bright, open, and clean. For example, in the first scene Clara has been put to work in the cotton fields. Supposedly too frail to last long at such work, she is pictured as a slim, serious, yet sturdy girl. The bright yellow sky and the charming smile of the boy with her belie the realities of the back-breaking work. In another scene, young Jack, who has been brought back the day before from running away, looks solemn, but not distressed, and is wearing what appears to be a freshly ironed white shirt. Again, the image distances viewers from the realities of the situation. Clara's escape to Canada, too, is marvelously easy, although she does say, "But not all are as lucky as we were, and most never can come." It is not easy to present the horrors of slavery to young children; thus, even though Ransome's illustrations, and to some extent the text, err on the side of caution, this is an inspiring story worth inclusion in most collections. --Karen James, Louisville Free Public Library, KY Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews
When Sweet Clara, not yet 12, is taken from her mother and sent from North Farm to Home Plantation as a field hand, she's put in the care of ``Aunt Rachel,'' not ``my for-real blood aunt, but she did her best.'' Fearing for Clara's health, Rachel teaches her to sew and is lucky enough to get her a place in the Big House, where Clara listens, learns, and saves scraps that she eventually pieces into a map-quilt showing the way to the Ohio and freedom. The troubles Clara escapes are so muted here that her accomplishment seems almost too easy; in a straightforward narrative flavored with dialect, she mentions that recaptured slaves might be beaten and describes her grief at leaving her mother, but Ransome's moving depiction of the hug when the two are reunited on the way north is a more poignant clue to the pain of their separation. What's emphasized are Clara's resolve and creativity and the accomplishment of winning her freedom; in the same vein, Ransome depicts the characters as sturdy, purposeful, and mutually supportive and sets them in colorful landscapes eloquently proclaiming the earth's beauty. A well-told, handsomely illustrated story that effectively dramatizes young Clara's perseverance and courage. (Young Reader/Picture book. 5- 10) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to theHardcover edition.

"A particularly effective way to introduce the subject to younger children, adding a trenchant immediacy to their understanding of a difficult but important chapter in the country's past."--(starred) Horn Book.

"This first-rate book is a triumph of the heart."--(starred) Publishers Weekly.   -- Review

Lesson Plans

What was the Underground Railroad?

Geography and Economics Lesson
An excellent lesson plan on Sweet Clara that covers economics and geography.

National Geographic: Quilting, the Story of the Underground Railroad

TeacherVision lesson plan on the underground railroad.

The Underground Railroad
National Geographic Magazine site.

Type Books
Vendor Deborah Hopkinson Books