Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Hudson Talbott

Most of us know at least something about our family's history.  Even if we have never indulged in any kind of genealogical search, we know stories that have been handed down from generation to generation.  Jacqueline Woodson's picture Show Way is based on some of the family history handed down to her, mixed in with imagined history to create this beautiful tribute to the African American girls and women who sewed patches into quilts, recording not just their family history in the fabric they used but also showing the way to freedom with their patterns and stitches.

Woodson's story follows seven generations of African American girls, some born in slavery, some born into freedom, some whose name has been lost to history, some who, although born free, still found themselves fighting to really be free, all witnesses to history, all freedom fighters.  They are seven generations of storytellers who told their stories the best way they could, each creating their own kind of Show Way.

Show Way is the name Woodson gives to the quilts that the girls made that show the moon, stars and roads that were coded maps for freedom seeking slaves to follow along the Underground Railroad.  She wrote Show Way for her own daughter Toshi as a way of holding on to their personal history after the great grandmother Toshi would never know passed away.

The book is written in a kind of free verse style, with a similar refrain for each new baby:
Loved that baby up so.
Yes, she loved that baby up.
The love each mother has for her child is one of the very tender threads linking the generations.

The mixed media illustrations go far to add to this story.  At times bold, at other time soft pastels, they all conveying the sense of family and history, incorporating real photos in the illustrations.  Talbott uses watercolor, chalk, muslin, and other fabric to create a feeling of changing times.

There is some contention about whether the quilts made by slave women really held coded messages about the road to freedom.  Whether you believe they did or not, Show Way is a work of love, celebrating the woman that came before Woodson.

This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL


  1. This book sounds fascinating and beautiful - I can't wait to check it out with my daughters! Thanks for the review, and sharing it on KLB hop!

  2. I love the cover! This sounds like a really wonderful story. Thank you for sharing this on the hop.


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