Show Way

Common Sense Media says

Beautiful story, from slavery to freedom.




Newbery Medal and Honors

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable
Violence & scariness

A slave is killed while running away. A silhouette shows a man aiming a gun at a runaway slave, who is also being chased by dogs. Several images in a collage show slaves being whipped, one with his pants pulled down. Some violent images from 60s-era civil rights conflicts.

Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that though this is a picture book, it's aimed at middle grade kids. There are historical references that will need explaining, especially for younger kids, as will the information in the collages. There are some references to violence: a slave killed, a silhouette of the capture of a runaway, news images from protest marches.

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What's the story?

The author touches on the lives of each of her female ancestors on her mother's side of the family, covering nine generations up to her daughter. She begins with a little unnamed girl sold away from her family at a young age, who learns to sew quilts that show the road to freedom, called Show Ways. Her daughter, Mathis May, is also sold away, and also learns to sew the Show Ways.

When freedom comes, the daughters in the family continue to learn how to sew beautiful quilts, which they sell to earn a living. Eventually some of them learn to read, become teachers, participate in the Civil Rights Movement, and on down to the author, who becomes a writer who still sews quilts, and has a daughter, to whom she tells the stories of her family.

Is it any good?


This story about nine generations of African-American women won the Newbery Honor, but with its spectacular art by Hudson Talbott it seems a more likely choice for the Caldecott, which celebrates art. These rich and complex, two-page, borderless pictures reward repeated viewings and close inspection. Some are beautiful watercolor paintings, some are historical collages, and some are visual metaphors, such as one showing a map of the U.S. with the states crudely sewn together and a large, frayed rip along the Mason-Dixon

The text is beautifully written, with recurring motifs about mother love and roads of stars, quilts, and stories. But there are many references that younger children may not understand. Twice characters are said to have "jumped broom," with no explanation. The author refers to "the north side of the war," but what war, and what that means, is not explained. This book is probably best shared with an adult.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the history. What was slavery and how did it end? What happened to the freed slaves? What was the Civil Rights era? How is life for African-Americans different now than it was even in Mom and Dad's childhood?

Book details

Author:Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrator:Hudson Talbott
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Penguin Group
Publication date:March 5, 2006
Number of pages:40
Read aloud:6
Read alone:7
Award:Newbery Medal and Honors

This review of Show Way 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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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, okay 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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Parent of a 3 and 10 year old Written byHilary Cruise May 17, 2010

prefect for younger kids

I loved it and so didnt my 3 and my 10 year old children
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Teen, 13 years old Written bybokey lover January 22, 2009

I was really touched and moved

This book has really torched me because, it tells a real story about real ppl. and it like moves u and u think like that’s sad and u want to now what happens next so u like read on cause u want to find out, if they live happily ever after or not .
Parent of a 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 year old Written byk.kenna February 3, 2011
What other families should know
Educational value


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