Walking Home to Rosie Lee by A. LaFaye, illustrated by Keith D. Shepherd

Published by Cinco Puntos Press

Summary: The Civil War is over, and Gabe wants to find his mama. She was sold by his master when Gabe was so young that all he can remember of her is her smell of jasmine, her good cooking, and the scarf she wore to cover up a scar she received as a punishment for trying to escape. For the first time in his life, Gabe is free to travel away from the plantation where he was a slave, and he sets off to find Mama. For months, he travels through the south, meeting other newly-freed slaves, following leads, and enduring crushing disappointments. One day, he sees a woman setting pies on the windowsill of a hotel, her long scarf trailing behind her. That night, he sleeps snuggled against his mama, hoping other boys will be as fortunate as he has been. Ages 8-12.

Pros: Told in Gabe’s distinctive voice (“Had me thinner than a leaf with the sorrow of it”), this story fills a gap in historical fiction picture books with its narrative about Reconstruction. The author’s note tells how Gabe’s story is representative of many newly freed slaves who sought to reunite with loved ones.

Cons: The history of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation aren’t told here, so kids will need some background to understand Gabe’s story.

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