This Is the Rope: A Story From the Great Migration

Book review by
Joanna H. Kraus, Common Sense Media
This Is the Rope: A Story From the Great Migration Book Poster Image
Lyrical story of a rope and one family's migration North.

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

Educational Value

Readers will learn a bit about the 20th century Great Migration from 1910 to 1970, when more than 6 million African Americans came to northern cities from the rural South to improve their lives. The book also shows ingenious examples of the many ways  a bit of rope can be used.

Positive Messages

Shows the determination of a family willing to relocate to better their situation, and the love that holds a family together.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The little girl grows up and becomes a grandmother herself, showing the family's cohesiveness as well as individual accomplishments.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Newbery Honor–winning author Jacqueline Woodson's This Is the Rope: A Story From the Great Migration, illustrated by Coretta Scott King Award–winning illustrator James Ransome, is a lyrical treatment of the the Great Migration, when millions of African Americans in the 20th century moved out of the South and headed North to find work and fairer treatment. A fictionalized version of the author's family history, it's told from the perspective of a little girl. The rope she finds becomes a valued object and an integral part of three generations of her family.

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What's the story?

THIS IS A ROPE traces the significant role a rope plays in three generations of an African American family. It's used not only as a jump rope but also to secure possessions to the roof of a car that heads north, to dry flowers and diapers in a city apartment, and to help make new friends. The story is told from the point of view of a young girl, who relates the rope's history in her family and how it helped them realize their goal of having a better life.

Is it any good?

Together, author Jacqueline Woodson and illustrator James Ransome have tackled a huge topic and made it accessible for young readers. Woodson uses spare, poetic text to show through a single family how hopes and dreams of a better life drove an estimated 6 million African Americans in the 20th century to leave the rural South for new beginnings in northern cities. And Ransome's oil paintings are realistic yet filled with emotion. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about family objects handed down through generations. Are there any items you use that were your grandmother's?

  • How much do you know about African American history? Check out our recommendation list of Award-Wining African American Books.

  • In a circle with friends or family take an object, like a piece of rope or a stick, and demonstrate all the different ways you could use it.

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and African-American books

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