Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Night Boat to Freedom

Lewis, E.B. (Illustrator)
Macmillan 2006. 40 pages
First published: 2006
ISBN: 9780374312664 (hardcover)
9780312550189 (paperback)
Original language: English
Book type: Picture Book

Text Elements:

character, figurative language, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This compelling story is based on oral histories given by ex-slaves in the 1930s. Granny Judith asks 12 year-old Christmas John to accept the dangerous task of rowing slaves across the river to freedom. She urges him, “what scares the head is best done with the heart.”

A sophisticated read, this is an excellent book for reading aloud and for confident readers. The language—narration and dialogue—is steeped in the evocative tone of an earlier time: “Black moon by black moon, I made the river trips, and square by square, Granny Judith’s quilt grew.” After a close call, Granny Judith decides John must row himself across the river.

Haunting watercolors depict the dark nights of escape and the glow of colours Granny Judith makes with her dyes. Christmas John’s face furrows in anguish as he embraces Granny Judith goodbye. When he doubles back, and rows them both across, Granny Judith’s quilt unfurls in all its glory, “we are all the colours of freedom, sugar!” An author’s note discusses sources in fascinating detail.

  •  

    Discuss the use of colours in the book. What do they represent? Why did the author include this element and how does it add to your enjoyment of the story?

  •  Write a response to the book focusing on the author’s style.
  •  

    Tell a story about what could happen next to Christmas John and Granny Judith.

  •  

    Retell the story focusing on the timeline of the story.

  •  

    Create a timeline (on a graphic organizer) using the colours from the book. 

  •  

    Discuss what could happen next to Christmas John and Granny Judith. Write a short sequel to the book.

  •  What do you know about quilts? How are they made? What are they used for? Think about the illustration on the two-page spread of the quilt that looks like a bridge floating across the river. What might be the symbolism? Do a think-pair-share.
  •  The author uses much figurative language. Select a passage of text and demonstrate your understanding by rewriting it in your own words.
  •  Create a T-chart to sort out fact and fiction in this story.
  •  Prepare a presentation about the Underground Railroad and the Canadians who were involved. Choose a medium to present it: skit, tableau, slide presentation, etc.
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use creativity
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Ethics and Religious Culture
  • Geography, History and Citizenship
  • Social Sciences