Before She Was Harriet
Before She Was Harriet

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Annotation: This lush and lyrical biography of Harriet Tubman, written in verse and illustrated by an award-winning artist, honors a woman of humble origins whose courage and compassion made her larger than life.
Genre: Biographies
Catalog Number: #150874
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Holiday House
Copyright Date: 2017
Edition Date: 2017
Illustrator: Ransome, James,
Pages: 32
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-8234-2047-7 Perma-Bound: 0-605-99709-8
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-8234-2047-6 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-99709-7
Dewey: 921
LCCN: 2016051680
Dimensions: 28 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Publishers Weekly
This striking reverse chronology opens with a regal portrait of an elderly Harriet Tubman, after which the Ransomes chart her decades of work in pursuit of equality. -Before she was a suffragist/ she was General Tubman/ rising out of the fog/ armed with courage/ strong in the face of rebels,- writes Lesa Cline-Ransome, her incisive free verse emphasizing Tubman-s bravery in the face of a multitude of dangers. James Ransome-s watercolor portraits imbue Tubman with a steely determination-at every age-in lush scenes often set against blazing summer skies and blue, moonlit nights. Beyond its recognition of all that Tubman accomplished, the book serves as a powerful reminder of how all children carry within them the potential for greatness. Ages 4-7. (Nov.)

School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 36Before and after Harriet Tubman became the stalwart conductor leading enslaved people to freedom on the Underground Railroad, she played many remarkable roles during her long life. Cline-Ransome honors Tubman in lyrical verse, beginning when the heroine is "tired and worn/her legs stiff/her back achy." In each stanza, Tubman looks back to the time "before she was an old woman." She recalls speaking out against injustice as a suffragist providing "a voice for women/who had none/in marriages/in courts/in voting booths." She recollects everything she accomplished during the Civil War, spying for the Union and nursing the wounded. Looking back even farther, she remembers leading her people out of bondage and then her own arduous years in the slave owners' fields. Before all of this, Tubman was a little girl named Araminta who dreamed of the time she would "leave behind slavery/along with her name/and pick a new one/Harriet." Each episode in her compelling life is illustrated by a luminous watercolor. The expertly done expressive paintings evoke Tubman's strength and integrity showing "the wisp of a woman with the courage of a lion." VERDICT This lovely tribute effectively communicates Tubman's everlasting bravery and resolve, and will inspire curious readers to learn more.Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
A memorable, lyrical reverse-chronological walk through the life of an American icon.In free verse, Cline-Ransome narrates the life of Harriet Tubman, starting and ending with a train ride Tubman takes as an old woman. "But before wrinkles formed / and her eyes failed," Tubman could walk tirelessly under a starlit sky. Cline-Ransome then describes the array of roles Tubman played throughout her life, including suffragist, abolitionist, Union spy, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. By framing the story around a literal train ride, the Ransomes juxtapose the privilege of traveling by rail against Harriet's earlier modes of travel, when she repeatedly ran for her life. Racism still abounds, however, for she rides in a segregated train. While the text introduces readers to the details of Tubman's life, Ransome's use of watercolor—such a striking departure from his oil illustrations in many of his other picture books—reveals Tubman's humanity, determination, drive, and hope. Ransome's lavishly detailed and expansive double-page spreads situate young readers in each time and place as the text takes them further into the past. A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney's Minty (1996) and Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson's Moses (2006). (Picture book/biography. 5-8)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* In reverse chronology, Harriet Tubman's multifaceted accomplishments come to life through poetic text and vivid watercolor images. Suffragist, general, spy, nurse, Aunt Harriet, Moses, conductor, Minty, Araminta ch name she was called is briefly outlined in text that works on many levels. The poetic text and artistic presentation are simultaneously simple enough for young children to understand and sophisticated enough to inspire adults. Dramatic images, such as Tubman in a boat on the Combahee River with Union soldiers and previously enslaved people, may encourage middle- and high-school students to investigate more about her life. Recalling Tubman's association with the Underground Railroad, the Ransomes cleverly frame the story in a train journey. As Tubman boards the train, her aged face, beautiful and determined, is followed immediately by a large portrait of her in earlier days, alone under a star-filled sky. Once those associations are established, they explore each role, with subsequent page spreads depicting her work for women's rights, in the Civil War, and leading others to freedom. Taking her story all the way to childhood is an evocative way for young readers to understand how each stage of her life developed. The final page returns to Tubman on the train, continuing her journey as a free person. Libraries likely already have many Harriet Tubman books, but this well-designed, unique approach warrants making room for one more.
Word Count: 427
Reading Level: 4.5
Interest Level: K-3
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.5 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 193579 / grade: Lower Grades
Lexile: NP

Who was Harriet Tubman before she was Harriet?

We know her today as Harriet Tubman, but in her lifetime she was called by many names. As General Tubman she was a Union spy. As Moses she led hundreds to freedom on the Underground Railroad. As Minty she was a slave whose spirit could not be broken. As Araminta she was a young girl whose father showed her the stars and the first steps on the path to freedom.

An evocative poem and stunning watercolors come together to honor a woman of humble origins whose courage and compassion make her a larger than life hero.

A lush and lyrical biography of Harriet Tubman, written in verse and illustrated by James Ransome, winner of the Coretta Scott King medal for The Creation.

A Junior Library Guild Selection

A Coretta Scott King Honor Book
A Christopher Award winner
A Jane Addams Children's Honor Book
A Booklist "Top of the List" selection 


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