Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Before She was Harriet

Before She was Harriet

Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrator:  James E. Ransome 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Holiday House, 2017   ISBN: 978-0823420476

She sits, an elderly woman whose joints are stiff and whose face is creased with the wrinkles of age and experience. Many years ago she was a young and vigorous woman who could walk for miles in the night. Before she was an elder with a “soft and raspy” voice, she was a fighter, a suffragist who spoke out loudly for the rights of women.

Before that she was a liberator who helped slaves flee the war ravaged south. While southern slave owners were dealing with burning fields and fallen bridges, she ferried men, women, and children across the Combahee River.

Wanting to support those who wished to bring slavery to an end, she was a spy for the Union Army during the American Civil War, and before she took on this dangerous task she was a nurse who took care of the war wounded.

As Aunt Harriet, she helped not only family members, but countless others flee the shackles of slavery. As a conductor on the Underground Railway she helped slaves who were running away from their persecutors so that they might begin new lives where they would be free.

Before she was a conductor, a nurse, a spy, a liberator, and a suffragist, she was a slave who worked on the land and who was punished with whippings that “broke her back but not her spirit.”

In this memorable book a lyrical text and beautiful illustrations are brought together to walk us through the many roles that Harriet Tubman filled in her life. We see how a young woman who had so little and who suffered greatly still managed to help so many through her actions and her words. As readers close the covers of this book they will feel both humbled and empowered by the story of this most extraordinary of women.