"Underground," a picture book by Shane W. Evans

Tuesday, March 1, 2011; 8:04 PM


By Shane W. Evans

Roaring Brook. $16.99. Ages 4-8

In this visual account of the Underground Railroad, darkness is safety while the bright light of civilization spells danger. At the outset of one group's harrowing journey, the sole source of light is a glowing orange rectangle set in a swath of deep blue night. All else that shines - the stars, the moon, the whites of people's eyes - is mere reflection. But the faintly outlined faces do not look toward this beckoning, almost cozy, window. Their gaze is turned away toward an even deeper darkness: "The escape." A faceless man, a rifle ready in one clenched fist, holds a brilliant yellow lantern aloft: "Some don't make it." But the light of freedom, like the light of the morning sun, is also strong. "We are almost there." The sketchy, anonymous faces of the escapees take on depth and individuality as the clear light of day breaks in a new and different land. "Freedom. I am free. He is free. She is free. We are free." The minimal text drums like a heartbeat. From terror to triumph, a perfect evocation for very young readers of what it means to escape from bondage.

- Kristi Jemtegaard

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