Runaway: The Daring Escape of Ona Judge by Ray Anthony Shepard, illustrated by Keith Mallet

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Image result for runaway the daring escape of ona judge
Image result for runaway the daring escape of ona judge

Summary:  The narrator addresses Ona Judge, asking her why she ran away from slavery in the home of George and Martha Washington.  As Martha’s personal slave, Ona had fine clothes, good food, and the chance to visit some of the best homes in New York and Philadelphia.  She also never had the chance to learn to read and write and was given as a gift to Martha’s “mean and sassy” granddaughter.  Ona left Philadelphia one night and escaped to New Hampshire, where she lived the rest of her life as a fugitive, despite George Washington’s efforts to bring her back to his family.  Includes an author’s note, timeline, bibliography, and a note on the text explaining the author’s poetic use of rhetorical questions.  40 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  This haunting text explores the question of why someone who had a relatively luxurious life, but was enslaved, would leave that life behind.  The excellent back matter provides additional context.  Older students may want to move from this book to Never Caught: The Story of Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar and Kathleen Van Cleve.

Cons:  Reviews I’ve seen recommend this book for ages 3-6 or 4-8, but I think older elementary and even middle school students would find Ona’s story thought-provoking.

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