Wednesday, July 10, 2013

January's Sparrow


Author & Illustrator: Patricia Polacco  
Publisher:  Philomel
Publication Year:   2009
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   SC School Book Award, Sequoyah Award, Charlotte Award,

Summary:  Eight year old Sadie "Sparrow" Crosswhite is a slave. She and her family watch in horror as a runaway slave, January, is drug into the year and whipped. Sadie is devastated as she remembers January giving her a carved sparrow when he told her that he was "fixin' to fly." After learning that the master was planning to auction of Sparrow's brother, her family flees on the Underground Railroad. They finally make it to Marshall, Michigan, where the whole town is part of the railroad. Sadie makes a new friend named Polly, but the family is still worried that the slave patrols are tracking them. One morning, Sadie's carved sparrow turns up on their doorstep and soon the master's soon and other trackers show up to drag the Crosswhite family away. The whole town rallies around them, but the white men quote the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 that the family can be taken back to their rightful owner. January even shows up to back the family but they are brought in front of a judge, Polly's father -- who jails the men for attempting kidnapping so the family has time to flee to Canada. After the war, Sadie returns to Marshall for good. With Polacco's typical marker and pen sketches, this 94 page picture book tells a true story from the town where she lives. 

Classroom Ideas: Obviously there is a lot of historical content here about the Underground Railroad and slavery. There is vocabulary from the time period as well (paddy rollers= slave patrols that captured runaways). The story is told in slave dialect and contains many instances of figurative language ("You lovin' one of the white folks is like a dog lovin' the hickory what beats it.")

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