Almost to Freedom (Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book)

by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Hardcover, 2003





Carolrhoda Books (2003), Edition: Later Printing., 40 pages


Tells the story of a young girl's dramatic escape from slavery via the Underground Railroad, from the perspective of her beloved rag doll.

Media reviews

Teaching Lit
This story is set in the 1800s. It is about a girl named Lindy and her family’s Underground Railroad experience. The book is told through the eyes of Lindy’s beloved rag doll, Sally. Lindy’s mom, Miz Rachel, makes Sally, and she and Lindy instantly become best friends: they eat, sleep, and even pick cotton on the plantation together. Wherever Lindy goes, so does Sally. So, when Lindy’s family decides to escape to freedom, Sally goes along to. One night while hiding in a basement, slave catchers approach. In a haste to leave, Sally is left behind. Sally is alone in the dark basement, and she worries that she will never be found. But soon, another escaping family comes along. Sally becomes the new owner of Willa, who changes her name to Belinda.
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As she explains in an author's note, Nelson... was inspired to write this story by a folk art museum's exhibit of black rag dolls, a few of which were discovered in Underground Railroad hideouts. Narrating this touching tale is a doll named Sally.... Through Sally's perceptive eyes, readers catch a hard-hitting glimpse of slave life.... A captivating account of escape via the Underground Railroad includes many suspenseful moments, among them a hasty departure from a safehouse that results in Lindy's inadvertently leaving Sally behind. ... Nelson's writing is immediate and often lyrical. Yet it is Bootman's... realistic paintings, distinctive for their skillful use of light and darkness, that best convey the story's pathos and urgency. Ages 6-10.

User reviews

LibraryThing member aprilbrittain
This book explains slavery fro the viewpoint of a child’s doll. Lindy’s dad was sold away from her and her mother. This was hard for Lindy but with she had a doll that her mother made for her and she told all her feelings to. Then came the day when Lindy and her mother ran away to be with the father and freedom. They stayed in a storeroom of a white couple and had to rush off one night and Lindy left the doll. The doll waited for another family use the storeroom and then she because another little girl’s doll.

I enjoyed reading this book and the point of view that it is told from. The smaller children will like the fact that it is told from a doll’s point of view. I like that it was written in slavery language so that the children will hear the difference in languages between the white people and the slaves.

This book would be a great introduction into the lives of a slave. The viewpoint that it is told from will be informational to children to see how the children were treated as well. Another extension would be to use this as in introduction to the Underground Railroad and how it operated with the slaves.
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LibraryThing member ksmitherman04
This would make a great addition to a classroom library. Through the eyes of a doll the hopefull story of freedom and the underground railroad is told. The illustrations are a real piece of art, and the writing is written in a beautiful dialect. There are a couple of informational pages at the end of the book. This book must be read.… (more)
LibraryThing member awidmer06
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age Appropriateness: Primary/Intermediate
Review: This book is a good example of realistic fiction because the narrative presents a true depiction of what life was like for slaves. The story is of a young girl's escape from slavery via the Underground Railroad. It is a heart-wrenching and encouraging story about friendship, strength, and courage. Readers are more aware of the life of the slaves and why they wanted to escape to the North.
Media: This book is a good example of ink and wash media because the illustrations blend well together and have even flow. There is a transparent effect on the pictures too with the multiple coats.
Characterization: Lindy is a dynamic character because she undergoes an important, internal change while escaping to the North for freedom. She develops courage and trust as she embarks on this risky escape with her mother.
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LibraryThing member JessicaGuiducci
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Appropriate Age: Intermediate
Media: Acrylic Painting
A doll tells the story of how she was created, given to a young girl named Lindy, and carried around the fields with the slaves. The doll saw the slaves work, struggle, and enjoy time with one another. The doll, Sally, saw them flogged, and ran away with them to earn freedom from slavery. Once in a safehouse, Sally feels safe and excited for freedom, but slave-catchers arrived and the little girl left Sally in the safehouse by accident. Later, Sally meets a new young girl and becomes her doll, and is renamed Belinda. The doll hopes that she can finally gain freedom. This story is a wonderful interpretation and rendition of a representation of slavery in the United States and the Underground Railroad. The author got the idea for the story when she went to a museum of the Underground Railroad and saw many of the dolls that were said to have been used by slave children for comfort. This information was presented clearly in the back of the book for background information.… (more)
LibraryThing member karawaller
This is a story about a little girl named Lindy, who carries a hand made doll made by her mother known as Miz Rachel. Lindy carries this doll around with her everywhere and raps the doll around her waist with a rope. The story is told by the dolls point of view. The story is during the years of slavery and the family is trying to be free.

In the back of the book, the author explains to the readers that the in a museum that she went to, she learned that there were a lot of these hand made dolls found in the hideouts of slave. I myself never knew about little girls carrying these dolls around with them.

In the classroom, we can start a discussion with questions like, how did sally , the rag doll, provide comfort to Lindy. After talking about the book, I can have them do a worksheet, putting the events of the story in order from the beginning to the end.
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LibraryThing member candicebairn
Much history is learned in the telling of this story. Wonderful illustrations.
LibraryThing member CarmellaLee
Personal Response: Vaunda explained in an author's note, she was inspired to write this story by a folk art museum's exhibit of black rag dolls. They were discovered in Underground Railroad hideouts. This stroy surely gave a good sense of the feelings the characters were feeling.

Curricular or Programming Connections: Slavery, Underground Railroad, African-American… (more)
LibraryThing member jamieh
This would be a good book for all ages. It teaches about the loneliness and the help of good people on the Underground Railroad. This would be a good book to read during black history month or while learning about the underground railroad.
LibraryThing member born1990
Genre: Historical Fiction

This book is a good example of historical fiction because the story accurately portrays the time period and the fictional characters. The family is in slavery and they escape using the underground railroad, as told through the eyes of the little girl's rag-doll.

Critique: Setting
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LibraryThing member BraleeGilday
Tells the story of a young girl's dramatic escape from slavery via the Underground Railroad, from the perspective of her beloved rag doll.
Genre: Historical Fiction
1) This is a good example of historical fiction because it is definitely both a good story and good and accurate history. This story takes place over one hundred years ago and while it is about fictional people and events, they are completely based out of what actually happened with the Underground Railroad and could have actually happened.
2) The point of view in this story is from a rag doll that belonged to a slave girl named Lindy. While this is not necessarily realistic, this point of view is what makes this story interesting and enables it to follow multiple stories. A doll is something that never dies and is allows getting to observe (in theory) and therefore is a great witness and narrator. The doll is able to take the reader through one families move, then when it gets left at a Safe Home and found by another child, through their story. Because the doll gets left, it leaves the first families outcome (whether they were safe or not) uncertain, which adds to the true reality of the time that some died and others didn't (without being overly optimistic or morbid).
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LibraryThing member soonergirlam
This book is very interesting! It is about a little girl and her family in slavery. The little girl, Lindy, had a doll her mom had sewn for her. In this book, the doll, Sally, tells the story of the family and how the family started on the Underground Railroad.
Personal Reaction:
I thought this book was very interesting and had awesome illustrations. This book was written in grammer that slaves probably used because they were deprived of an education.
Classroom Extensions:
#1: I would have the children journal about their feelings about the book right after I read it to them, to get their immediate reaction.
#2: I would have the children discuss the meanings of some of the words used in the book that they may not understand.
#3: I would use this book as a supplement to a social studies lesson on the underground railroad.
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LibraryThing member MartyAllen
A story of the Underground Railroad, told from the perspectve of a child traveler's doll. The fact that this story is told through the eyes of the doll can make it more relatable to children. Perhaps they can’t imagine life as a slave, but they can relate to the love between a child and her toy. At the same time, though, this distances the reader from the danger occurring as she is not exposed to the young girl’s fear, just the doll’s fear, a step removed. At one point, it is mentioned that the girl’s father has been taken away. Normally, this would be anxiety-provoking, but because of this step removed approach, this is not so emotional. The different point of view also allows the glossing over of the entire plot. Because the doll does not directly experience slavery or the escape for freedom, the reader does not get the full experience of these events. The pictures, full of saturated colors and looking almost like paintings, do add to this, giving the story a depth that the text doesn’t. These images tell more than the words, showing the sadness and loneliness felt. However, they don’t completely make up for the lack. While the story has potential, in the end, it misses the mark.… (more)
LibraryThing member jojamo
Summary: Almost to Freedom by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson tells the story of how Lindy and her family live as slaves picking cotton on a Virginia plantation, and how they escape through the Underground Railroad. The story is told through the eyes of Lindy’s doll Sally. The doll tells of how she was made by Lindy’s mother “Miz Rachel”, given to Lindy, and how she was taken everywhere with Lindy. The doll tells of how they picked cotton, how the “Massa” treated them, and how they escape through the night and made their way to the Underground Railroad. Sally gets left behind in an escape from the safe house by accident, and later retrieved by another girl who names her Belinda. The author uses the language of African-American slaves to make the story more real. The dark vivid illustrations help tell the story. The author’s notes tell of her inspiration for the story, and what is fact and what is fiction. The book gives a historical account of the Underground Railroad.

Personal reaction: I thought it was really unique to tell the story from the doll’s point of view. I don’t recall ever reading anything told from this perspective. Although Sally doesn’t know what the people think and feel, you get it from the doll’s descriptions, and the books illustrations to know what is going on in the story. I would recommend this book not only for the content, but also the unique experience of the story being told by the doll.

Classroom extension: 1. I would use this book in a study about slavery. The students could tell about a time they had to escape from something. 2. This book could also be used during Black History Month. 3. Another use for this book could be agriculture, plantations, and the American South.
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LibraryThing member MaryBethLingner
“Almost to Freedom” was an excellent book, unlike any that I have ever read before. I liked the book for the storyline but mostly I liked it for the way in which it was written. The story was written from the perspective of a little slave girl’s doll, named Sally. Sally recounts her life with her owner, named Lindy, and their journey to freedom. Sally describes Lindy’s life and the cruelty she faces as a slave. However, one day Lindy’s family escapes and finds refuge in the cellar of a white family who agrees to hide them before they journey to the Underground Railroad. When slave catchers raid the house Lindy’s family is staying in, they flee, mistakenly leaving Sally behind. Sally then lives many years alone and lonely in the white family’s cellar until a new family of slaves on the run appear, and a little girl adopts Sally as her own doll. Sally delights in this and says, “I’s mighty glad to be Willa’s doll baby. It’s a right important job.” Not only did I like that the story was written from the perspective of a doll, I also liked how Sally spoke. Sally’s dialect was exactly how slaves would have been during that time period. She said things like, “I started out no more’n a bunch of rags on a Virginia plantation. Lindy’s mama was my maker. Miz Rachel done a fine job puttin’ me together, takin’ extra time to sew my face on real careful with thread, embroidery they call it.” Because Sally spoke this way it made what she had to say very realistic, heightening the authenticity of the book. I believe the main idea of; “Almost to Freedom” was to give readers a very realistic recounting of the hardships and cruelties slaves faced from the perspective of a very unique narrator. In the author’s note the author describes her inspiration for writing, “Almost to Freedom.” She says that she was visiting the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico and came across a display of black rag dolls from the 1800s and 1900s. She said the dolls immediately caught her attention and was told many of them were found in one of the hideouts of the Underground Railroad, suggesting their use by black children. Her husband told her that there was a story in that and she thought, “if only those dolls could talk.” This is exactly what the author did and how she created the main idea of her story. She gave life to an inanimate object that probably saw it all and comforted many scared children. Sally was the perfect narrator for such a heroic story and gave an honest and open portrayal of what the life of a slave might actually be like.… (more)
LibraryThing member Arianna21
Genre: Historical Fiction- This was historical fiction because during the time period, there was slavery and the underground railroad that led to freedom was real. But, this is fiction because this doll was not real and we don't know if any of the characters were real.
Point of View: This was first person point of view from the doll. She spoke in first person, and you didn't know what other people were thinking, you only heard what they said out loud.… (more)
LibraryThing member 1derlys
This story comes from the homemade doll that a slave girls mama made. The doll witnesses some terrible things and then during the escape to freedom becomes left behind at a safe-house. There is good news though for the doll and the little girl. Time period illustrations and Authors note about the doll. Historical words and phrases review on last page.… (more)
LibraryThing member Maestrayvette
Great for Black History Month. Illustrations are excellent.


Original language


Physical description

40 p.; 9.5 inches


157505342X / 9781575053424


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