Author: Courtni C. Wright
Illustrator: Gershom Griffith
Publisher and year: Holiday House, 1994
Number of pages: 29 pages
Tags/Themes: Colleen Swanson, Diversity, Culture, Family, Slavery, 3-5, 6-8, Social Science
Genre: Historical Fiction
Descriptive Annotation: Journey to Freedom is a about a boy named Joshua and his family who are runaway slaves. They are journeying on the Underground Railroad with the guidance of Harriet Tubman to escape slavery and reach freedom in the North. Joshua and his family move along the Underground Railroad with Harriet Tubman traveling on foot by night and stopping at safe houses to rest during the day. One night a snowstorm hits and they are forced to seek shelter in the woods. When the group reaches the safe house the next day, the stationmaster tells them they are one night away from Ohio. From there they will take a boat to Canada and reach freedom. Joshua, his family, and Harriet walk until they reach Lake Erie the next day. There a boatman is waiting for them and takes them across the lake. Once to the other side, they are no longer slaves but free people at last. This story of a family’s journey to freedom is told through both the text as well as the illustrations. The watercolor images on each page are very realistic and make the readers feel as though they are there with the characters during their journey. On each page there is at least a paragraph of text written from the perspective of Joshua, making this story an example of literature for the upper elementary and middle school grades. This story really explains the purpose of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad in American history. Students may benefit from prior knowledge of these subjects or this text may be used to introduce them to the topics.
Linguistic and Cultural Diversity: There is some cultural diversity evident in this story through the topic of the Underground Railroad and slavery. Journey to Freedom is centered on a slave family’s 20-day journey to freedom in Canada. All of the characters present in the story are depicted as African descent. However, there is little to no linguistic diversity in this book as it is written all in English.
Interdisciplinary Connections: This text is most applicable for the upper elementary and middle school grades due to the content, subject area, and text length. Journey to Freedom can easily be integrated into a Social Studies curriculum in those grades when discussing Harriet Tubman, slavery, run away slaves, the Underground Railroad, the Fugitive Slave Act, and other topics similar to these.
Other Information: I thoroughly enjoyed reading Journey To Freedom and I believe students of all backgrounds will as well. Particularly students in 5th and 6th grade will enjoy this story as they learn about Harriet Tubman and what she did to help people escape slavery. This story gives students an inside look into what is would have been like to travel on the Underground Railroad. I would use this book to introduce the topics of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad to my students because the text describes both very vividly. After reading the text and studying more about the topic I would return to the book at the end of the unit and read it again. Then I would ask students to discuss what happened to Joshua and his family once they reached finally Canada and freedom.