Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom
By Matt Berman,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Beautiful picture book bio shows Tubman rooted in faith.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The forward describes what slavery is and how it was practiced in "colonial America and the United States." An author's note gives biographical information about Harriet's life and work with the Underground Railroad. Although this is a fictional account of Harriet's journey, it includes real details about the cruelty of enslavement and the danger of escaping.
Enslavement is not only cruel, it's morally wrong, and escaping it is courageous. Doing the right thing is worth the risk, even if it's dangerous. Perseverance is important, but compassion is also necessary: Use your gifts to help others. But hatred and cruelty are also very powerful and dangerous.
Positive Role Models
Harriet shows great courage and perseverance when escaping her enslavement. She demonstrates compassion by helping more than 300 people travel to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Others help Harriet along her journey by directing her to safe havens and giving her food and transportation. The author's note describes how Harriet's father taught her important skills that saved her and others.
Harriet Tubman -- a heroic and brave Black woman -- is the main character. Most conversations are about the injustice of enslaving Black people. Race-based poverty is depicted through Harriet's life in the North: She can only get work as a maid or cook. Harriet calls herself a "lowly woman" but is told by God she is strong and clever. Other women help Harriet on her journey. The book's author, Carole Boston Weatherford, is a Black woman. Illustrator Kadir Nelson is a Black man.
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Violence & Scariness
Cruel elements of enslavement are mentioned, such as forced marriage, starvation, whippings, and families being separated. An author's note mentions that Harriet was forced into marriage by her enslavers. It also notes that she was hit in the head and almost killed. Harriet is in danger throughout much of the book, and her journey to freedom is hard: Her feet bleed, she becomes sick, and she says she would rather die than be enslaved again.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Carole Boston Weatherford's Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, is a picture book about Harriet Tubman's escape from enslavement. This topic is, and should be, disturbing, and young children will need help understanding it. Harriet is in pain and danger throughout the book: She fears whippings and being sold, and her feet bleed along her journey. But she shows great courage and perseverance, as well as compassion by helping more than 300 other people escape to freedom too. There's also a strong spiritual element to the book in Harriet's many conversations with God. Although the book is fictional, an author's note gives biographical information about Harriet's life and work with the Underground Railroad. The book won both a Caldecott Honor and a Coretta Scott King Book Award.
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What's the Story?
Set in the mid-19th century, MOSES: WHEN HARRIET TUBMAN LED HER PEOPLE TO FREEDOM follows Harriet Tubman's escape from enslavement. Enduring hardship but demonstrating courage and perseverance, Harriet is sustained by her belief in a protective God who wants her to survive. Her strong moral and spiritual compass leads her to return to the South to free her family, and then help more than 300 people escape to freedom by way of the Underground Railroad. Although this is a fictionalized account, Moses includes a foreword about slavery and an author's note about Harriet's life.
Is It Any Good?
Two attention-grabbing elements set this fantastic story of Tubman apart from others. The first is the spiritual focus of Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom. Rather than retelling known events of Tubman's life, this picture book is a fictionalized account of her communication with God along her journey. The book's text consists primarily of swirling, lyrical conversations she has with God before, during, and after her flight. She hears God's voice in the breeze and songs of birds and sees God's face reflected in moonlight on swamp water. God clearly tells her that enslavement is wrong, she is right to escape it, and that she should help others do the same.
The second special element is the book's artwork: a series of two-page, borderless paintings that are nothing short of spectacular. Clear, vivid, and bathed in light, they enhance the relationship Harriet has with God and add a powerful emotional expressiveness to the book. Harriet's face is prominently featured on almost every page, showing her courage and strength even in the midst of terrible hardship and danger. Combined with the poetic text, these images create a musical quality that turns this oft-told historical tale into something more: a testament to Harriet's own heart and senses, as well as her mind.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about slavery, the main topic of Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom. What was it, and why was it practiced in the United States?
How did Harriet's spiritual faith give her the courage to do what she did? What other sources of strength do people draw from in the face of danger?
How does Harriet demonstrate character strengths like courage and perseverance on her journey to freedom? How does she show compassion by helping with the Underground Railroad?
- Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
- Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
- Genre: Biography
- Topics: Activism, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Courage, Perseverance
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Jump at the Sun
- Publication date: September 1, 2006
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 5 - 7
- Number of pages: 41
- Awards: ALA Best and Notable Books, Caldecott Medal and Honors, Coretta Scott King Medal and Honors
- Last updated: March 10, 2023
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Where to Read
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