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Trailblazers: Harriet Tubman

Trailblazers: Harriet Tubman

Sandra A. Agard
Stripes Publishing
ISBN: 9781788952224

Trail Blazers: Harriet Tubman retells the well-known story of the brave slave who escaped on the Underground Railroad then returned many times to help other slaves follow in her footsteps.

The book follows Harriet (born Araminta Ross) from her birth on a Maryland plantation, through childhood and a growing awareness of her burning need for freedom, through various escape attempts and then life in the North. As a free woman, Harriet dedicated the rest of her life to helping her people in as many ways, from acting as a 'conductor' on the railroad (before it became too dangerous for someone so well known) to giving speeches to gatherings of social reformers. She worked as a nurse during the civil war, as a spy slipping behind enemy lines (becoming Commander of Intelligence Operations) and established the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged.

As well as Harriet's personal story, there are regular asides throughout the book that clearly explain important linked concepts, for example, a brief history of the slave trade from 14th Century onwards, the Middle Passage, roles on a plantation, and slave songs and stories.

Although, obviously, great care needs to be taken explaining such a difficult period in history to primary age children, I felt some of the descriptions were a little too 'soft' and light on the horrors of life under slavery. For example, slave ships are just described as having 'tightly packed, unclean conditions'.

Harriet Tubmans's life is a truly inspiring story with lessons for us all, and this book is accessible to wide range of children and will be very useful for topic work about slavery or, in PSHE, looking at inspiring lives - the last page asks how we can all make the world a better place.

176 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Carol Carter, school librarian


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