Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

Book review by
Jennifer Gennari, Common Sense Media
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt Book Poster Image
Enslaved girl's courage will engage older kids.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

This book introduces the concept of slavery to young children.

Violence & Scariness

Clara is taken away from her mother.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book downplays the horrors of slavery in consideration of its young audience. Children will become engrossed in the expressive paintings and the tale of a heroine's determination to reach freedom and find her mother.

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Teen, 13 years old Written bytreeman1234 April 9, 2008

What's the story?

Taken from her mother at a young age, Sweet Clara dreams of returning to her mother and escaping slavery. With scraps of cloth, she finds a way to sew to freedom. Through this true story, Clara's courage and dedication to reach freedom will engage older children.


Is it any good?

Deborah Hopkinson writes in a compelling and confident voice this thought-provoking true story of a slave girl who sews a map on a quilt. Listeners feel as if they are inside Clara's head, hoping and working to freedom.

"It was like being in a dream you already dreamed," explains Sweet Clara as she follows the landmarks to freedom that other slaves had told her about, landmarks she had sewn into her freedom quilt. Clara's determination is a trait all listeners will admire. 

Harsh facts about slavery, such as beatings of runaways, are appropriately downplayed in this book aimed at young listeners. The textured paintings by James Ransome add richness and depth to the story. Visible brush strokes and warm tones are used to express the dignity and sadness of the slaves. When Aunt Rachel's hand traces the path of Clara's stitches on the freedom quilt, one can imagine the feel of the fabric under her fingertips.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Sweet Clara's courage. What was at risk for her as she sewed her quilt and later as she fled? Parents also can start a discussion about how slavery disrupted families, with consequences reverberating through generations.

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