Friday, February 5, 2010

BHM: Escaping Slavery, Big Jabe

Unlike the last two books I reviewed, this one is fictional ... as far as we know. In the tradition of tall tales, Jerdine Nelson tells the story of Big Jabe, with the help of Kadir Nelson's powerful illustrations.

Addy has gone fishing and hasn't caught "nary a one", when she sees a boy floating down the river in a basket. He hands her a golden pear, and plants its seeds after she's eaten it. Then he calls the fish to jump in her wagon, which they obligingly do. There's feasting that night, at the Big House, and in the Quarters.

By June, Jabe is a full-grown man "with the strength of fifty. He could weed a whole field of soybeans before sunup, hoe the back forty by midday, and mend ten miles of fence by sunset." With all that help, there's time for leisure, and Addy gets to fish more, under that new pear tree.

The overseer gets mad and tries to punish some of the other slaves, but they keep disappearing. The story keeps me on the edge of my seat every time I read it.

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