Thursday, July 16, 2015

Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony Inspired by Historical Facts by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Michele Wood

Nikki Grimes has come up with a unique way to introduce young readers to two important women in American history in this historical fiction picture book for older readers.  She based her story in reality, at the 1904 Women's Suffrage Convention held in Rochester, NY (Grimes writes in the Author's Note that she could not discover when this convention was held and so she arbitrarily chose November).  Susan B Anthony was scheduled to speak and Harriet Tubman had planned on attending the convention, but ended up speaking about her life as a conductor on the Underground Railroad to the attendees after being introduced by Anthony.

Since there is no record of this meeting, Grimes has created an imagined meeting and conversation over tea at Anthony's home between the two women.  In alternating vignettes, each woman talks and reminisces about her life as am activists, recalling the dangers, the joys, the sorrows and the rewards.  Tubman tells Anthony about slavery and how she, once she freed herself, felt it was her duty to help others find freedom.

In between, Anthony tells Tubman about the family support she received that helped her learn to speak out for reform, especially for women, and about the dangers she also faced when speaking out or about unpopular topics.

Through their conversation, the reader begins to acquire a firm idea of what these two women accomplished, that will hopefully inspire young people to seek more in-depth information about them.  It is also interesting to hear them speaking about other well-known figures from their time, men like Frederick Douglas and John Brown.  There is just so much food for thought in this picture book, it will definitely take more than one reading to cull it all, but it is so worthwhile.

The acrylic and oil painted folk art style illustrations are so perfectly suited to the time period, done in a palette of rich colors from 19th century America and resembling a old handmade quilt.  Be sure to study each one closely.

The back matter shouldn't be ignored, either.  There are short biographies of each person mentioned in the book, additional notes, a useful biography and an Author's Note, all contributing additional information to the main part of the book.

I love that Grimes used an imaginary conversation to present so much information and to make the lives of these women stand out  in such an exciting way, making this a work that should not be missed.

And Grimes has also done an extensive Classroom Guide for teachers and homeschooling, which can be found HERE

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

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