Freedom Train by Dorothy Sterling

Freedom Train:  The Story of Harriet Tubman by Dorothy Sterling is our latest history read-aloud.  I chose this book mostly because there is an Arrow for this book, which means the picking of the dictation passages was done for me.  (This isn’t a big deal, but it feels pretty nice to me to have one more thing I don’t have to make a decision about.)  I’ll admit that I started reading this book with a good bit of skepticism:  I expected the story to be didactic and textbookish, perhaps because it’s designated as a Scholastic Biography.  It took me a little while to warm up to it, yes, but in the end, I loved this book, and I think my girls did, too.  Really, though, how can a book about someone as interesting as Harriet Tubman be bad?  She’s such an interesting person, and so courageous!  It struck me at one point during the story just how much this poor, illiterate slave woman accomplished, and I just had to sit back and think about that for just a moment.  Wow.  I learned a lot by reading this book:  that Harriet lived quite a life after her years with the Underground Railroad–acting as a Union spy, as a Civil War nurse, and finally heading up a community of freedmen in Canada.  I even learned all the words to the song “John Brown’s Body”!  Although my girls already knew a good bit about Harriet from other things they’ve read, this was time well-spent for me.  The only thing that bothered me about this book is how often Harriet and others are quoted, with absolutely no source material cited.  I suppose this book might best be considered a ficitonalized biography.  I just used this as a teaching opportunity to discuss with my girls the importance of primary sources, etc.  Nevertheless, this is definitely one worth reading.  (Scholastic, 1954)

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