When I saw the haunting cover of Almost to Freedom in my local library, I had to read it. It immediately brought to mind another picture about another child at another time in another part of the world.
Almost to Freedom
Author: Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Illustrator: Colin Bootman
Publisher/Date: Carolrhoda Books (a division of Lerner Publishing Group)/2003
Themes: slavery; Underground Railroad; doll; journey
Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Lindy and her doll Sally are best friends – wherever Lindy goes, Sally stays right by her side. They eat together, sleep together, and even pick cotton together. So, on the night Lindy and her mama run away in search of freedom, Sally goes too. This young girl’s rag doll vividly narrates her enslaved family’s courageous escape through the Underground Railroad. At once heart-wrenching and uplifting, this story about friendship and the strength of the human spirit will touch the lives of all readers long after the journey has ended.
Read a review at Publisher’s Weekly.
The Dress and the Girl
Author: Camille Andros
Illustrator: Julie Morstad
Publisher/Date: Abrams Books for Young Readers/2018
Themes: immigration; memory; journey
Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):
A little girl and her favorite dress dream of an extraordinary life. They enjoy simple pleasures together on a beautiful Greek island. They watch the sunset, do chores, and pick wildflowers on the way home. One day, the dress and the girl must leave the island and immigrate to the United States. Upon arrival, the girl is separated from the trunk carrying her favorite dress, and she fears her dress is lost forever. Many years later, the girl—now all grown up—spots the dress in a thrift store window. As the two are finally reunited, the memories of their times together come flooding back. While the girl can no longer wear the dress, it’s now perfect for her own daughter—and the new journey of a girl and her dress begins. Featuring lush illustrations, The Dress and the Girl is a stunning picture book about memory and the power of the items we hold most dear.
Read my review.
I paired these books because both recount journeys of important inanimate objects that accompany their special persons through difficult life changes. The main character and narrator in Almost to Freedom is Sally, a rag doll who is “best friends” with Lindy, an enslaved girl, who is by Lindy’s side as Lindy is whipped, and who accompanies Lindy and her family as they flee slavery utilizing the Underground Railroad. In The Dress and the Girl, the unnamed pair do everything together, until they are separated accidentally following a journey to America. In both of these books, I think the presence of these beloved objects brings comfort to the children. I think telling these stories by focusing on the objects rather than on the children enables readers to witness the events but be somewhat removed as well, something that I found particularly helpful when reading about Lindy being whipped.
Looking for similar reads?
See Ella & Monkey at Sea, about a young girl and her stuffed monkey who move to America.
I have only read the second book, but am really intrigued with “Almost to Freedom.” I like the pairing of objects in these two unforgettable and moving stories. Another story that would pair with both books is “The Keeping Quilt” by Patricia Polacco. Thank you for the recommendations.