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Friday, March 18, 2011

Underground, written and illustrated by Shane W. Evans. Roaring Brook, 2011. $19.50 ages 5 and up

"The darkness.

The escape.

We are quiet."

When the images are so unmistakeably powerful, you need few words to narrate the story. Shane W. Evans is able to evoke the suspense and fear that accompanies any who travel the Underground Railroad. We are able to watch over this furtive group of escapees as they make their way through the darkness by running, crawling, taking an occasional heart-stopping rest, staying in safe houses and silently persevering with freedom their goal.

Darkness is their safety and all that shines throughout are the stars in the night sky and the whites of the runaways' eyes as they move endlessly toward  freedom's light. The power of Evans' palette is striking..there is virtually no light until freedom is achieved. The warm yellow glow of a lantern has a distinctly  different welcoming new friends, one announcing capture.

There is so much to be seen within these pages. The persistent fear as the runaways begin their journey in darkness, the gruelling drama of the journey itself, the hopelessness of capture and the endless joy of light and emancipation. It is all here and so lovingly shared for a young audience. But, share it with older children, too. I am sure that the discussion will be powerful.

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