I didn’t write a post about Martin Luther King Day this week, so I thought I would share my favorite picture book on the subject of slavery and racism in the U.S.  I had the extreme good fortune of hearing the author read this story out loud at a conference, where I was moved to tears.  This is also a Newbery Honor book.

Written by Jacqueline Woodson, Illustrated by Hudson Talbott
Putnam Juvenile, September, 2005
Suitable for:  Ages 4-8
Themes/Topics:  Slavery, Civil Rights, Martin Luther King, Jr., Race Relations, Families, Mothers and Daughters, History
Opening and brief synopsis: Opening: “Soonie’s great-grandma was only seven when she was sold away from her parents in Virginia and sent to South Carolina. All she had was a piece of muslin from her mother, two needles, and bright red thread. She was raised by Big Mama, who cared for the plantation children and at night whispered stories of freedom. Big Mama taught great-grandma how to sew messages and directions into quilt patterns, a Show Way.”
The book follows the journey of eight generations of Woodson’s own female ancestors, ending with her own daughter.  Make sure you have tissues nearby when you read it.
Activities:  Lesson Planet has several lesson plans based on Show Way and others of Woodson’s books.  Woodson herself does not have any on her site, saying, “I write because I have questions, not because I have answers…”  Have to say I love that!
Why I Like This Book: I wrote a entire blog post about what this book means to me here.

For more books with resources please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books!

Categories: Authors, Children's Books, Perfect Picture Book Friday, Picture Books · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,



  1. I’m going to have to read that one, I wonder what the kids will make of it. Great choice Julie.

  2. Oh, Julie, reading your blog today, and your previous review, gave me goosebumps. Not many picture books reduce me to tears, but I am sure you are right, this one would. That quilt must be so, so precious!

    I too love that quote, that she writes because she has questions, not answers. PPBF is introducing me to so many wonderful books.

  3. this does sound like a good one. I like how they hung up quilts that told messages to slaves. There is a house down the road from me that they say has a hidden room and all and was a stopping place on the underground railroad back during the 1800s.

    • I never knew that about some of those quilts before. It was a way for them to communicate passages through the underground railroad because many slaves couldn’t read. So they “read” the quilts.

  4. I love this book!! So glad that you chose it. It’s a powerful one. Thanks. Now I’m off to write my PPBF review.

  5. Excellent choice, Julie! This book should be a must for every child in America. I have several books to buy today and this one is going on the list. Your review was awesome. Every one should read it. *waving*

  6. Ooh, don’t know if I could read that right now. Since becoming a mom, I have no tolerance for any sad stories about children, and this one in particular is difficult. But also so beautiful. Thanks for bringing it to my attention…it’s on the list for another moment in time.

    • Renee, I know what you mean. My daughter was the same age as these little girls when I heard Jackie read the book. But ultimately it is a book of hope. But you still might want to wait a bit before reading it.

  7. I can not believe I have not read this book. It sounds like a wondeful tribute to many generations of one family. What a moving story to hand down from daughter to daughter. I’m going to have to read it. I love historical fiction. Read your earlier post about hearing Woodson at the SCBWI conference. That must have been an inspiring moment. Thank you so much for sharing this book.

    • Pat, it’s not an understatement to say that it was a game-changer for me. I’ve always known the power of books for adults, but this book showed me that even books for the youngest children can have immense power.

  8. I can’t believe I haven’t read this yet, but I’m certainly going to have to. I’m so glad you posted it. I know Hudson Talbott – wonderful guy, and such a talented artist! – and am a great admirer of his books. Reading about a child being sold away from her parents will probably make me cry! but I think it’s important that things be told in an emotionally truthful way. you can’t gloss some things over. Thanks for this great addition, Julie!

    • Wow you know Hudson? His illustration of Jackie in the last frame looks JUST like her. I agree that it’s important for kids to see reality, but it’s also important to note that the book is bookended by hope. It’s full of love, courage, family and ultimately, freedom.

  9. I’ll be on the look-out for this book and her other books you mentioned in your blog post. Great review and thanks for the informative links!

  10. I love learning about nonfiction picture books!!! Another one that always brought me to tears was Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco (I think!) It was based on her family stories as well.

    • Gail – I’ll have to look into Pink and Say. I think it’s important that there are books that deal with difficult and sad topics, so long as they are also hopeful, which Show Way definitely is.

  11. You had me near tears when I read the link about your first post on this book. What a powerful story and reading of it.

  12. I bought this book for my library a few months ago — it’s simply beautiful.

  13. There were tears in my eyes as I read your previous post — wow, what power that woman’s words have. I must, must, MUST read this book. Thank you. (And yet again, I am astonished and greatly annoyed that not one branch of our city library has this book. Other libraries in the province have it, but not ours.)

    • Beth, I dare say this might be one worth buying. You will find something new every time you read it. It’s an absolute treasure.

  14. AWESOME post! I read the one from February too! I really want to read this book!

  15. I have not read this book, but it sounds like one that I need for our personal collection at home. “I’m gonna love that baby up……” I love that…..

  16. It is truly a terrible shame, the stain of slavery on the world, and this nation. Sadly, racism still exist here in our country, and slavery, ludicrously allowed by humanity in some parts of the world still today. I guess, though many of us do not harbor such ridiculous prejudices against other’s races, religiosity still segregates the world. I pray we learned from our mistakes as a young nation to never allow such a thing as Sharia Law, (which, indeed allows for slavery, especially with women)to be honored in America. Anyway, that’s a deep matter.

    Bless you, thanks for stopping by my site…Oh, and yeah Jaqueline certainly said a mouthful there:

    “I write because I have questions, not because I have answers…”

    So profound!!!

    • Paul, thanks for your comments. And isn’t that quote just fabulous! I’ve also read The Other Side (which Jacqueline also read at the same conference), but I need to read some of her middle grade work too.

  17. This sounds like a great book. Thanks for the tissue warning! I love that it follows the eight generations of female ancestors. Very cool.

  18. Wow Julie – I want to get this book even if just for me. The kids really get frustrated with me when I read and start crying – cause of course I have to stop for long blubbing moments. I read the book about was it Clara Rose? The first black girl to attend an all white school in the south. I cried all the way through. I think these stories are even more tender to my hear because I’m here in South Africa and I see the great culture differences between black and white. It’s awesome to try and understand how the African black cultures can survive in the western world. They are so very very different.

    Question – did I miss something? Are you a homeschooler? I’ve seen now twice you post about lesson plans. Thanks Melissa

  19. Julie! Thanks for guiding me to pick up this book. And I agree with Melissa, forget the kids, I personally want to read it!

  20. Sounds like a pretty heavy topic for a picture book . . . especially for a 4 year old.

  21. Oh my Julie your previous review of this book and the way it was read to you brought tears and moved me…. I have to read this book. How amazing to have it read out loud by the author. This is the kind of story I want so much to write, not so much that it is based on fact but that it moves one so! *sniff*… thankyou for sharing.

  22. What a difficult subject to handle in a picture book and this one sounds like it was done just right. I will be picking this one up, thank you so much for choosing it today.

  23. looks beautiful – i saw her speak at scbwi ny one year, and was wowed by her poise and grace.

  24. Julie, I plan to read your post on the conference, but I wanted to comment here first.
    Thank you for bringing this book to our attention. I noticed it was recommended for ages 4-8, but I really think it would relay a powerful message to much older children as well…and especially those who might be struggling readers or those with special needs.
    The only problem I am having with Susannah’s PPBF is that I now have a LONG list of books that I MUST have. 🙂

  25. I really like Jacqueline Woodson’s books. We have this one in the library, but I have never read it. Time to take it off the shelf! How amazing that she traced her ancestors back 8 generations in this book. We have a quilt guild in Denton that makes quilts to go with picture books that feature quilts- they loan the books and quilts to local schools. I don’t recall this book being on the list, so next time I talk with the ladies I will have to suggest this title for a project!

  26. Love love love this book (words and illustrations!)
    thanks for spreading the word about it,

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