Reviews for Freedom's A-Callin' Me

Booklist Reviews 2012 February #1
The author-illustrator team from We Troubled the Waters (2009) tells a powerful story of slavery and escape. Clear, first-person free verse and unframed paintings unflinchingly show the oppressors' brutality as well as the triumph of those who never give up until they make it to freedom. The scenes begin on a plantation, with a slave picking cotton and planning escape. In a horrific double-page spread, an overseer whips captured runaways and screams, "Never again," but the speaker knows differently: "We'll try try again." The paintings of the Underground Railroad in dark shades of purple and green show looming forest shapes: is a stranger a spy? Sojourner Truth threatens to shoot a hesitating runaway ("either you coming wit' us . . . or you die heah"). And whites are both treacherous trackers and brave abolitionists. There is a whole story in the scene of the runaway in a hole beneath a house, listening to the party above. Unlike many runaway stories, these triumphant words and pictures never downplay the cruelty from which many escaped. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
This collection begins with a man in a cotton field and ends with three newly free African Americans in Canada. Shange's poems are filled with a sense of urgency; most of the paintings are dark, and Brown effectively uses dabs of white to convey a sense of danger (moonlight reflected off the shirt of a runaway, making him visible to trackers, for example).

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2012 #1
The poet and the painter who first paired their talents in 2009 with We Troubled the Waters return with another collection, this one centered on the experiences of slaves seeking freedom. The poems are arranged chronologically, beginning with a man in a cotton field, dreaming of freedom, and ending with three newly free African Americans in Canada posing for a photograph with white abolitionists. Along the way we see and hear several frightened but courageous runaways, always pursued by the trackers and their hound dogs, never sure whom to trust ("he look jus' like mastah / oh but he aint / mastah have him killed / a abolitionist"). Most of the paintings are necessarily dark, as the escapes took place at night, and Brown effectively uses dabs of white to convey a sense of danger -- moonlight reflected off the shirt of a runaway, making him visible to trackers, for example, or light coming through the floorboards under which a man is hiding. Shange's poems, too, are filled with a sense of urgency: "watch now / them trackers shootin at us again / stay low / stay low / ‘nearly there.'" She pays tribute, too, to those who did not make it in her most haunting poem, "The Sacrifice": "we comfort each other / weepin / contemplatin the torturous death of the other... / a peculiar grief on the way / to freedom." kathleen t. horning

Kirkus Reviews 2012 January #1
One slave is the poetic voice for those who toil on a cotton plantation and look to the North Star, following the Underground Railroad to freedom. Shange wrote the poems in response to Brown's paintings and provides a sound stage for not only the many men and women who sought freedom but also those who were fearful of leaving. The dramatic oil paintings open in the stark white of the cotton fields. In the following tableaux, slaves are whipped, run through swamps, barely ahead of trackers and their dogs, and receive help from white abolitionists and Sojourner Truth. One powerful double-page spread shows a runaway hiding under floor boards, with slivers of light coming through. The end of the road finally comes in Michigan, where white snow on ground and trees serves as a beautiful counterpoint to the opening scene. Painter and poet previously collaborated on We Troubled the Waters (2009), and in this volume they have created a focused narrative that is troubling, violent and soul-stirring. In the title poem, the man says "ah may get tired / good Lawd / ah may may be free." Inspirational pairings of art and verse to read and recite in tribute to those who walked that perilous road. (Picture book/poetry. 12 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 November #4

Shange and Brown's (We Troubled the Waters) book of poems about an escaping slave won't be easy for some readers to get through. Whipping, pursuit by bloodhounds ("dogs'll tear your/ muscle right off the bone"), and other horrors haunt the slave and his fellow escapees. Shange uses her formidable gifts to call up the voices of the slave and those he encounters; his words are raw and agonized in some places ("ah jus' can't take it no more," he says, "ah am not some animal to be worked from dawn to dusk/ livin on the entrails of hogs & such") and unbearably poignant in others ("but he's travelin alone," he protests to another escapee about a man they see across the swamp at night, "can't we help him a little bit"). The shadowed figures in Brown's full-bleed spreads are often barely perceptible in the dark. In one striking painting, the slave hides below the floorboards as a dance is held above him; thin lines of golden light fall over his concealed body. When the journey ends, the calm of freedom seems unbelievable. A potent and memorable work. Ages 8-12. Agent: Russell & Volkening. (Jan.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 December

Gr 4-8--The team who created We Troubled the Waters (HarperCollins, 2009) now presents a series of poems and paintings that express the hope and frustration of enslaved people trying to navigate the Underground Railroad. Using dialect to convey a Southern cadence, Shange's poems communicate powerful emotions. Fear, resolve, anger, and hope all show up at various times. The book depicts a variety of experiences, from a slave who wants to escape, to a loved one who tries to convince him to stay; a man who changes his mind midway, to others who survive the journey. Along the way, the escapees meet white people who hurt or kill as well as those who help in large and small ways. These poems are a cry from the heart. They express the spirit that compelled people to take desperate measures to find freedom, people who viewed death as preferable to bondage. The expressive, impressionistic paintings capture attention with their bold strokes and vivid coloring. Generally indistinct faces and dramatically posed bodies command the eye. A few graphic images make this book best suited to upper elementary or older readers. This is an excellent resource to use with fictional titles such as Patricia Polacco's January's Sparrow (Philomel, 2009) or Christopher Paul Curtis's Elijah of Buxton (Scholastic, 2007).--Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA

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