The Children's Book Compass

New Patricia Polacco Book

Posted on: February 18, 2010

January‘s Sparrow by Patrica  Polacco.  (2009). Philomel.  95 pages.  Grades 3 and up.  Fiction

Patrica Polacco has a talent for telling stories with words and illustrations that powerfully touch our emotions.  She has done it again in January‘s Sparrow.  Sadie,  young slave girl, relates how her family, the Crosswhites, escapes from a cruel plantation master.  The family makes an arduous  journey on the Underground Railroad finally arriving in Marshall, a town in the free state of Michigan.  There the citizens help runaway slaves, and the family comfortably settles.  Sadie and her siblings get to go to school and their parents find work.  But then slave trackers arrive in the town ready to take the Crosswhites back into slavery.  The dramatic conclusion demonstrates how the town protects the family with bravery and courage.  The story is based on a true account of how the Crosswhite family escaped from slavery.  It is an excellent choice to read aloud as Polacco’s large size illustrations can be seen by everyone in the classroom.  The dramatic illustrations show the terror and the emotions of the events.  Compare this book with Pink and Say also by Polacco.  Guide the students to consider how Polacco emphasizes facial features and hands to evoke the power of the events in the story.  Another great connection for this book is Christopher Paul Curtis’ novel, Elijah of Buxton.

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