Under the Quilt of Night
January 6, 2005
Award-winning duo Deborah Hopkinson and James E. Ransome combine their talents once more for this sequel to the best-selling Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt. Traveling late one night, a runaway slave girl spies a quilt hanging outside a house. The quilt's center is a striking deep blue -- a sign that the people inside are willing to help her escape. Can she bravely navigate the complex world of the Underground Railroad and lead her family to freedom?
Under the quilt of night a young slave girl leads her loved ones away from the slave master who worked them: "hoeing and picking, / mending and sewing, / till my hands got raw." In this striking companion to Deborah Hopkinson and James Ransome's Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, Hopkinson uses the rhythm of verse to echo the drumming of the slaves' feet as they travel along the Underground Railroad in pre-Civil War times. Ransome's oil painting illustrations are rich with the purple hues of night, and fraught with the tense emotions of the men, women, and children trying to escape--and those helping them. Over the course of the story, the deep purple gradually lightens, as the sun begins to rise and the slaves approach freedom. The final illustration is a veritable sunburst of brilliant orange and yellow. Our heroine's voice "flies up in song. / My own song / of running in sunshine / and dancing through fields. / I'll jump every fence in my way." A truly glorious celebration of the brave souls who kept alive the secret network of people helping others escape slavery. (Ages 5 to 11) --Emilie Coulter --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Dramatic oil paintings and compelling verse-like prose combine to portray the harsh yet hopeful experience of travel along the Underground Railroad. Hopkinson and Ransome revisit the theme of their first collaboration, Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt. This time readers journey the precarious trail to freedom with a young runaway as she escapes to Canada via clandestine routes and dangerous nighttime treks. The intense opening spread features three panels showing her nameless family running for their lives by the light of the full moon, some shoeless or with only rags on their feet. (Subsequent pages show snarling dogs and overseers in hot pursuit.) The story comes to a formidable climax when they're almost discovered hiding in the back of a wagon. Hopkinson names each segment of the journey ("Running," "Waiting," "Hiding") and her narrative conveys the emotional and physical hardships of the trip ("Fear is so real, it lies here beside me"). The author connects the metaphorical protective quilt of night with folkloric elements (legend has it that quilts with blue center squares indicated safe houses on the Underground Railroad). Ransome fills in the characterizations with portraits that convey a strong familial connection and the kindness of the conductors along the way. This suspenseful story successfully introduces and sheds light on a pivotal chapter in America's history for youngest readers. Ages 5-10. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-In this companion to Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt (Knopf, 1993), a nameless young slave narrates the story of her escape with a small band of slaves. When they come to the edge of a town, she sees a woman leave a quilt with blue center squares out to air, takes it as a sign that the house hides runaways, and leads the group inside. There they receive dry clothing, food, and shelter for the night. The next day they leave hidden in a wagon, face a terrifying moment when would-be captors intercept them, and finally take the road to Canada and freedom. Ransome's dark oil paintings are a visual metaphor for the quilt of darkness that hides the runaways and are in sharp contrast to the brilliant, golden-hued scene depicting the girl's celebration of her freedom, arms outstretched, head raised to the sky where flying birds symbolize the liberty she is about to experience. The close-up scene of the slaves' pursuers astride galloping horses, led by dogs with teeth bared, is appropriately scary. The narrative is told in a series of poems, printed in negative type on the dark ground, and the language is lovely. In an author's note, Hopkinson acknowledges that she mixes fact with folklore, for some historians believe there is no proof there were actually quilts with hidden meanings to mark safe houses. Yet this story is powerfully told and provides a fine entr,e into this period of history. Marianne Saccardi, Norwalk Community College, CT
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Ages 5-7. Writing in the anxious voice of a young slave girl escaping from a harsh master, Hopkinson transports children back to a time gone by. The young girl tells of a dramatic, treacherous flight, "under the quilt of night," through a mosquito-ridden wood and across deep river waters, and of finding a glimmer of hope, a sign from the Underground Railroad, shining against the dark backdrop of the night sky. It's a quilt she sees, hanging across the fence of a simple farmhouse. The quilt delivers a message: slaves have reached the path to freedom. Protected by her trust in the quilt, the girl approaches the farmhouse, taking her first steps toward a new life. The powerful oil paintings, in rich dark colors, add depth to the fabric of this heartfelt, lyrically presented slice of African American history. Cynthia Turnquest Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Horn BookExpresses the poignant range of emotions experienced by slavves who risked the journey to freedom.
Multicultural Review This superb book provides a wonderful experience for all, young or old.Chicago Sun-Times Exquisite.