HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Journey to Freedom: A Story of the Underground Railroad
Author: Courtni C. Wright
Illustrator: Gershom Griffith
Publisher: Holiday House, republished in 1997
ISBN-13: 978-0823410965 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 082341096X (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0823413331 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0823413330 (Paperback)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 4-8 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Wright, Courtni C. Journey to Freedom: A Story of the Underground Railroad (published in 1994 by Holiday House). Our older son Mark read this book in fourth grade when he was studying about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad in his homeschool history class. Beginning twenty days into their journey, it is the story of Joshua and his family, runaway slaves from a tobacco plantation in Kentucky, who follow the Underground Railroad led by Harriet Tubman to freedom in Canada. A wonderfully written picture book for older readers, it shows the family from safe house to safe house until they finally cross the river to their destination. In their journey, they must overcome obstacles, dangers, and hardships such as frostbite, hiding in bushes, using songs and signals to make moves, and living on hope in order to escape successfully without being caught. This is an excellent beginning to a difficult topic.
The first-person, present-tense narrative, told from the perspective of eight-year-old Joshua, interspersed with conversation, is very readable and interesting. Author Courtni C. Wright does a phenomenal job putting the reader into the characters shoes. There is suspense, hope, joy, and many other emotions that the reader will experience. Illustrator Gershom Griffith’s double-page-spread watercolors often show the family members grouped tightly together, expressing the fear of discovery that the entire group feels. The fictionalized autobiographical approach will hold the attention of children and help them to grasp what the struggle was all about. Since it doesn’t dig deeply into any violent events, it gives a young child a feeling of some of the problems that the travelers endured without being overpowering. The final page of the book contains an author’s note with a brief description of the Underground Railroad and a map.