Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Today's read... Blacksmith's Song by Elizabeth Van Steenwyck

I know I said that this week is graphic novel week, but I'm going to stretch definitions a tiny bit and let this picture book slide in, since today, another edition is being released. 

by Elizabeth Van Steenwyck
Illustrated by Anna Rich
Peachtree Publishing Company
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

The son of an enslaved blacksmith learns that his father is using the rhythm of his hammering to communicate with travelers on the Underground Railroad.

"A plausible, powerful vision of ingenuity and daring in action." ―Publishers Weekly

When Pa falls ill, it's up to his son to help others along the journey―and also lead his family's escape.

Pa works hard as a blacksmith. But he's got another important job to do as well: using his anvil to pound out the traveling rhythm―a message to travelers on the Underground Railroad. His son wants to help, but Pa keeps putting him off. Then one day, Pa falls ill, and the boy has to take over.

A little-known piece of history comes to life in Elizabeth Van Steenwyk's absorbing, fictional story, exquisitely illustrated by Anna Rich. Ripe with themes of bravery, community, family, freedom, and hope, the award-winning book is perfect for Black and Civil War-era history units.


Best Children's Books of the Year (Starred) --Bank Street College of Education
Parents' Choice Recommended Award --Parents' Choice Foundation
Paterson Prize for Books for Young People (Grades 4-6) --The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College
Kansas State Reading Circle Recommended Reading List (Intermediate)―Kansas National Education Association

Also by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk:
First Dog Fala

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/62970791-blacksmith-s-song
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blacksmiths-song-elizabeth-van-steenwyk/1141293627
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1682634809


Tapping into historical tales about the Underground Railroad around the Civil War, this book swirls around secret messages to help steer escaping slaves in the right direction.

A boy watches his father, a blacksmith on the estate, work during the day, and then, late into the night. While the white owner believes the father is pushing late hours to create an ordered birthday present, the father uses the rhythm of his hammers to guide slaves on their escape routes. Not only does the boy dream of the day his own family can flee, but watches with worry as his father weakens day by day.

First off, this is a beautifully illustrated book. The scenes take on darker tones, illustrating not only the fleeing slaves at night but also keeping a dark hint to the tale. These are enjoyable to gaze at all on their own and definitely give the book a high quality.

The story is written in an interesting way, which will have readers engaged. The boy's thoughts and concerns are understandable, and it's no problem to grasp what is happening. I was a bit disappointed that this is a fictional story, which isn't drawn on any known facts, but speculated and might not have happened at all, especially since there is so much information available. It does, however, point out how clever situations were handled at that time and will open up the door to conversations. So, combined with the illustrations, I do recommend this one as an edition to other reads concerning the time period and topic.

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