Way Up and Over Everything

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Way Up and Over Everything Book Poster Image
Folktale about hope, flying, and the magic of storytelling.

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A lot or a little?

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

Violence & Scariness

As should be expected in a book about slavery and escape, this story does refer to violence and harsh treatment by overseers with whips. 


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book is about slavery and may invite questions from kids. It was given the Parents' Choice Seal of Recommendation.

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What's the story?

Passed down from the author's great-grandmama's mama, this is a "flying" story. As a girl, and a slave in Georgia, Jane witnessed the arrival of 5 new Africans to the plantation, and at the end of the first day sees them escape in the most amazing way. Words and pictures describe the operation of the plantation, the use of the whip, dogs, and threats, as well as the magic of the escape. The final pages explain more about these kinds of folktales and how the author came upon this one.

Is it any good?

Though this inviting folktale is about slavery in America, it's more about the magic and wonderment of a "flying" story born out of the African people's desperate "wish for freedom." The belief that some oppressed people could escape by flying away "way up and over everything" was, and still is, a means of keeping hope alive in a world that was degrading and dispiriting.

The teller, Alice McGill, is a gifted storyteller who tells her tale with a warmth that is both dramatic and inspiring. Readers will imagine themselves sitting at her knee, listening to her every word. And, they will find themselves moved by her tone that is enriched with the oral tradition that passed the story down to her. Watercolor landscapes, subtly toned and peopled by elongated figures that seem small and almost lost in the world, add to the magic of the message, and make this a book to be cherished.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about slavery and what that meant for the African people raised on the plantations. They might also discuss the magical belief in flying to escape as well as the hopeful power of an oral tradition that passed on such a story as this one.  What was life like for Jane and the others? Why did the overseer call the one young man Bob when his name was really Edet? How do you think Jane felt when the 5 new slaves escaped by flying away? Do you think that is possible? Why did the overseer tell Jane not to tell anyone? Why do you think she did? What do you think this kind of story meant to her, all the other slaves, and the generations that followed?

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