Follow the Drinking Gourd

Common Sense Media says

Engages children by bringing history to life.

Age(i)

2
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

This may be your young one's introduction to the shameful history of enslavement.

Violence & scariness

The foreground of one picture depicts a slave driver with a whip. The family hides from dogs and fights off a wolf.

Language
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this story engages children by bringing history to life. Be prepared to sing the folk song (music provided) at the end.

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What's the story?

Follow the stars to freedom! In song and story the legend of Peg Leg Joe, a conductor on the Underground Railroad, comes to life. The author employs song to teach young readers about a difficult subject in an age-appropriate way, without sacrificing historical accuracy. The pictures, though well done, at times are frightening for young ones.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Presenting difficult topics such as slavery and the Underground Railroad without frightening young ones isn't an easy task, but Jeanette Winters accomplishes it with rhythmic, gentle text and simple pictures in soothing nighttime tones that still convey the fear and hardship runaway slaves experienced. The book successfully incorporates the musical and scientific aspects of the legend of Peg Leg Joe into the text. A few of the illustrations may seem a bit scary, but Winter keeps the presentation gentle enough for her young audience without sacrificing accuracy by presenting a watered-down version of history. While the paintings in the first half may evoke fear and pity, as the book progresses and the family nears freedom, the background colors lighten and brighten.

Though it may spur tough but valid questions about slavery, this book also stimulates an interest in astronomy, maps, history, and, of course, music.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about slavery. How do you think it would feel not to have your freedom? Why did people feel the need to enslave others?

Book details

Author:Jeanette Winter
Illustrator:Jeanette Winter
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:January 1, 1988
Number of pages:46
Publisher's recommended age(s):2 - 4

This review of Follow the Drinking Gourd was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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