I taught for years when there wasn’t a suitable picture book tribute to Harriet Tubman. Now that I have it, I’m not sure I can use it in school.
Harriet is one of those historic figures that trouble publishers. They could (and some do) tell her story without the spiritual aspects. But scrubbing her free of this side of her identity is like pretending Martin Luther King Jr. was not a reverend. It’s just not honest to the historic record.
Carole Boston Weatherford does not make this mistake with Moses. Instead she makes Harriet’s spirituality the center of the story of her escape from slavery. Thus, much of the book is a conversation with God; and perhaps this is just how Harriet would have had it.
I like this book, in part because Kadir Nelson‘s illustrations are nothing shy of amazing, but also because Harriet’s struggle to escape is so compelling. However, I’m not sure that I can use it in school with young students. The intersection of spirituality and public schools is awkward at best, and becomes a lighting rod at worst.
This year I’m going to pass on Moses: probably like many publishers did. But, for an older audience, this would absolutely work; and this is certainly fair game for the private school and homeschool crowds.