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Monday, February 02, 2009

Well Done, Moses, Well Done

Since February brings us Black History Month, I thought I'd kick it off with a book about one of the most well-known heroes in African American history - Harriet Tubman. Moses by Carole Boston Weatherford celebrates the brave slave woman's life and accomplishments with gentle, faith-affirming prose and bright, hopeful illustrations by Kadir Nelson (who just won the Coretta Scott King Award for We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball). Although it was published several years ago, I just discovered this gem thanks to my pal Hallie at Disney Publishing.

The story is written in the form of a conversation between God and Tubman. An Author's Note at the back of the book says, "[Harriet Tubman] talked to God as to a friend and she heeded His commands." Her close relationship with her Maker is very clearly depicted in the book. Throughout the story, as Tubman escapes bondage, hides from slave masters and courageously leads her people to safety, she seeks guidance from the Lord and follows His admonitions. Although hers is a story of bravery, love and loyalty, what most impresses me is her profound faith in God.

The text also hints that God foreordained Harriet Tubman to become a hero among her people. I could be inferring too much, but lines like "Harriet, your father/taught you to read the stars,/predict the weather,/gather wild berries,/and make cures from roots./Use his lessons to be free" seem to say she received the exact sort of schooling she would later use to save herself and so many others. I love this idea, because I, too, believe that God specially grooms the men and women He needs to lead His people.

Nelson's illustrations bring the story to life with strong colors and poignant images. His drawings of Tubman clearly reflect the fear, determination and hope she must have felt. One picture, which shows Tubman shushing her followers, bothered me because in it, she looks so unkind. Then I read this in the Author's Note, and realized how apt the depiction really is: "She used medicine to hush crying babies and threatened to shoot runaways who begged to turn back." I guess you don't make repeated successful forays into enemy territory without becoming a tough, commanding leader.

Weatherford's text combined with Nelson's illustrations make Moses a powerful, inspiring book. A Coretta Scott King Award winner (2007), it speaks of faith, bravery and Tubman's passionate fight for freedom. After following her journey, it's plain to see how she became known as "the Moses of her people" and why, at the end of the book, God says, "Well done, Moses, well done." To Weatherford and Nelson, I say the same - Well done.

Grade: A

(Book images from Barnes & Noble)

1 comment:

  1. This book sounds beautiful. I love how you talked about God grooming men and women to fulfill certain missions in life. I believe that too. Great review!


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