Show Way

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Show Way Book Poster Image
Beautiful story, from slavery to freedom.

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 2+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages
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.


What 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 There are historical references that will need explaining, especially for younger kids, as will the information in the collages.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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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bysnowbound February 2, 2012

Excellent Read

I just read Show Way as multicultural children's book and was very pleased. I enjoyed the wonderful illustrations that brought each text to life on every p... Continue reading
Parent of a 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10-year-old Written byk.kenna February 3, 2011
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 n... Continue reading

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?

The rich and complex, two-page, borderless pictures reward repeated viewings and close inspection. 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. Some of the pictures 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.

Talk to your kids 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

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