Author: Gary D. Schmidt
Author Website: https://us.macmillan.com/author/garyschmidt
Illustrator: Daniel Minter
Publisher: A Neal Porter Book ROARING BROOK Press
Word Count: 1,696
This story is perfect for ages: 6+
Straight from Aunty LuLav
Walk on this incredible journey to freedom with Sojourner Truth. The prose is rich and poetic, skillfully showing the story of this incredible woman. The artwork is spellbinding, telling and completing the story around her.
Scriptural Underpinnings & Positive Themes
WOW! Gary D Schmidt is one of my favorite Children’s Authors, and in this non-fiction picture book he does not disappoint!
The story of the life and struggle of Isabella – Sojourner Truth – speaks boldly from each page. Schmidt intertwines Isabella’s own words, with her life story, to carry us along on her journey to FREEDOM.
Schmidt uses poetic simile to frame the segments of Isabella’s life, creating a background rhythm, from the the hopelessness of slavery on to the hope of freedom.
In Slavery Time, when Promises were thin
as old smoke,
In Slavery Time, when chains tore families apart
like the wind frays a flag,
In Freedom Time, when Chains broke and Words got up to sing
and Tiredness, oh Tiredness, danced a Hallelujah,
You can feel that rhythm as the story of Isabella’s life unfolds and she becomes Sojourner Truth.
Isabella’s strength is described as being So Tall Within. Resolute, she sojourned across the country, telling her story, speaking against slavery, fighting for freedom.
Schmidt points to her faith in God and her reliance on Jesus.
In Ohio she said that she had seen some of her children “sold off into slavery,
and when I cried out with a mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard.”
One lovely motif used in the writing is the stars and the moon of the night sky. They tie the separated family members together throughout the book. Isabella’s mother, Mau-mau Bett, tells her:
“Those are the same stars, and that is the same moon,
that look down upon your brothers and sisters,” she whispered.
And Isabella looked at those same stars, that same moon, and dreamed.
The strength of Sojourner Truth and her love of God is made evident. As a young woman, bound in the brutality of slavery, we see Isabella wondering:
But sometimes she looked up at those stars and that moon,
and she asked God “if he thought it was right”
Toward the end of her life, after the abolition of slavery, we see Sojourner Truth wondering again, wondering about her purpose in the earth. She looks up.
Then she looked up at those same stars, that same moon, and she saw them shining
over everyone. Over everyone!
I love this thought. Now, the moon and the stars no longer tied together only separated family members. Now, Sojourner Truth looks up and sees the same moon and stars shining down on everyone, the larger family of humanity, no longer separated by the chains of slavery, but with hope for unity and freedom!
At the end of the book, is a detailed Biography of Sojourner Truth compiled by Gary D. Schmidt and a helpful Bibliography for more resources!
Daniel Minter’s art is incredible, speaking with equal weight, the story of Sojourner Truth. He uses several visuals to tell the sad story of slavery, evolving to the hope of a free nation.
Minter is a fine artist, using watercolors, oils and pencil.
He showcases each line of poetic simile in the text, in a single painting. These show barren trees, with deep underground roots cradling a child, falling leaves encasing a woman, a tattered flag, a slave with a slave collar, a slave with lines of red words across his back – the simile
In slavery Time, when Words seemed weaker than whips,
The unsettling images change to bright and hopeful as Sojourner walks and speaks and Freedom Time finally comes.
Another effective pattern in the artwork is hidden in the trees in the distance, we see shadows of people, running, sojourning, cradling children, shadowing the action in the foreground. You feel Isabella is not alone; many are with her. In the last painting, the shadowy figures have come out of the trees, to the foreground, to join Sojourner Truth. They are looking up and pointing to the moon and stars with joy.
Trees also tell the tale throughout the book, always present as roots and shelter.
One of my favorite paintings depicts Isabella presenting her case to a Grand Jury in New York. Her little son had been sold south, breaking a law of the land. Isabelle knew the law. As a backdrop, where she is pleading her case, is the Preamble to the Constitution.
But Isabella thought, “I felt so tall within –
I felt as if the power of a nation was with me!”
The End of the Matter5/5 waves
I am WAVING and WALKING
WAVING and WALKING
5 Freedom Waves of my Lulav
So Tall Within!