Harriet and the Promised Land

Book review by
Sally Snyder, Common Sense Media
Harriet and the Promised Land Book Poster Image
Story and art convey the escape to freedom.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages
Violence & Scariness

Specific horrors of slavery aren't reflected in the illustrations, but the intense artwork may inspire strong reactions.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book's rhyming text, imaginative similes, and dynamic art will involve the reader.

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What's the story?

Close at their heels howled the bloodhound pack. What would it be like to run for freedom, fearing capture and hoping for a new life? Determined to secure liberty for slaves in the pre-Civil War South, Harriet Tubman leads them \"toward the Promised Land\" in this tribute to her life told with striking art and poetry emphasizing slavery's emotional impact.

 

Is it any good?

First published in 1968, this book has just as much impact today in representing the lives of slaves who "work for your master from your cradle to your grave." It's more mood piece than biography, and the simple rhyme plays a supporting role, allowing the reader to explore the story primarily through the powerfully symbolic art.

Jacob Lawrence uses strong, bold colors, and his partially abstract figures convey the universality of humankind. Art dominates each page, with white borders and a thin line. These lines sometimes encase the art and sometimes run off the page, creating movement in the illustrations.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about heroism, sacrifice, freedom, and the Underground Railroad. Why would someone risk their life again and again to help others?

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