Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom Book Poster Image
Award-winning picture-book treatment of Tubman.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Tubman repeatedly risks her life to help others.

Violence & Scariness

Whippings are mentioned. An Author's Note tells how Tubman was hit in the head and almost killed. She is in danger through much of the book.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the topic of slavery is, and should be, disturbing, and young children will need help understanding. Harriet is in danger through much of the book. There is also a strong spiritual element to the book in Tubman's many conversations with God.

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What's the story?

Led by her faith, Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery in the mid-19th century, then returns, first to free her family, and then 18 more times to help other slaves escape by way of the Underground Railroad to freedom. Enduring hardship and fear, she is sustained by her belief in a protective God who has given her a mission.

Includes a Foreword about slavery, and an Author's Note about Tubman's life.

Is it any good?

Two things set this story of Harriet Tubman apart from the many others on the market. The first is the focus of the text. Rather than a simple retelling of the known events of her life, this is instead a somewhat fictionalized account of Tubman's spiritual journey. As told in the swirling, lyrical writing, filled with rhythm and internal rhyme, these are her conversations with God, whose voice she hears in the breeze and the songs of birds, whose face she sees reflected in moonlight on swamp water. The book consists primarily of these conversations, before, during, and after her flight, laid out in clever typography that enhances the meaning.

The second is the artwork, a series of two-page, borderless paintings that are nothing short of spectacular. Clear, vivid, bathed in light even in the darkness, they accent the spirituality and add a powerful emotional expressiveness to the book. Combined with the poetic text, the images create a musical quality; a chanted spiritual of uplift and veneration that turns this oft-told historical tale into something more. It's more than just the tale of a brave woman freeing slaves, it's a testament to something that engages the heart and senses, as well as the mind, and hums in the soul long after the cover is closed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about slavery. What was it, and why was it practiced? Families can also talk about religion. How did Harriet's faith give her the courage to do what she did?

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