Sweet Clara and The Freedom Quilt

by Deborah Hopkinson

Paperback, 1993



Local notes

E Hop


Scholastic Educational (1993), 32 pages. $6.95.


A young slave stitches a quilt with a map pattern which guides her to freedom in the North.

Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

32 p.; 10.1 inches


0590424858 / 9780590424851



User reviews

LibraryThing member TorrieM
I would start using this book with third graders. This is around the grade they start learning about history. This book can be used to teach about slavery and black history. It tells a story of a young girl growing up in slaverym and how she found her way to freedom by sewing a quilt.
LibraryThing member KeriMullins
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt is a book about a young girl who was separated from her mother. At, first she works in the fields, but the lady she lives with teaches Clara how to sow. Clara works in the big house. Whatever scraps she can get she takes with her and begins to so a quilt that would lead her to the Ohio River.

I really liked this book. This book shows what it was like for slaves and how hard it was to escape to freedom.

This would be a good book to read before talking about slavery. You could have evry student bring a few peices of scrap material and you all could make a quilt and keep it in the class room.
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LibraryThing member JillianWilliams
This book is about a young girl named Clara that is sold away from her mother. Clara is taught by a nice lady named Rachel to sew. Clara sews a quilt with a map of the path to the Ohio River, which will lead her to freedom.

I really liked that this book showed the aspects of slavery from a young child’s perspective. It showed how Clara coped and overcame the difficulties that were placed in front of her.

This would be a great book to use while teaching the History of slavery. It would give the younger children a perspective from another child in history that is their age who went through the hardships of slavery.
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LibraryThing member ashclark
This is the story of Clara who as a young girl was taken away from her family and sent to a different plantation. A woman named Aunt Rachel takes her in and teaches her to sew. Clara sews so well that she is brought into the house to be a seamstress. In the house Clara hears about slaves running away and the Underground Railroad. She learns the directions to the Ohio River where they then can get across and go to Canada to be free. Clara decides to make a map of the directions out of scrap fabric. She finally escapes with her friend Jack and leaves the quilt for others to come and see.

I really enjoyed this book I think that it is a great story of overcoming slavery. I also think that this book gives you hope to find your way out of a bad situation.

For classroom extensions I think it would be a good book to read when learning about slavery. I also think it would be a way to teach students how bad slavery really was and you could show the students where they would have to travel like Clara on a map.
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LibraryThing member tg172415
This is a book about a young slave girl who is separated from her family and is taken to work in the fields of a plantation. She soon discovers that fieldwork is not for her, and is permitted to work in the house, helping with the sewing and mending. She begins to hear conversations about others who have escaped their plight, and comes up with a brilliant idea: she uses the leftover scraps of cloth from her sewing to begin to make her own quilt...a map that will lead her to her family and then to freedom. From the conversations she hears about the layout of the surrounding land, she meticulously creates her quilt. Upon its completion, she flees to find her family and leads them all to freedom. Having memorized its every detail while making it, she leaves the quilt behind for others to likewise memorize and reach safety. I really enjoyed this book. This story lends itself particularly well to both history and art lessons. It would be especially appropriate to use it for language arts in an integrated lesson on the Civil war, specifically when dealing with the issues of the horrors and injustices of slavery at that time.

After reading this book to my class we would take a field trip to a plantation house, touring the grounds and learning the surrounding history. We would concentrate especially on the places where the slaves were made to live and work. Upon returning to the classroom, I would break students into small groups and have them each choose a topic connected to slavery. We would take time in the library to research topics (which might include slave auctions, living conditions, working conditions, etc.). I would allow them to share what they've learned with the class through a descriptive presentation, re-enactment, or any other creative method. As a closing activity.I would even have an African-American storyteller who specializes in period folklore to come make a presentation to the class.
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LibraryThing member berethalindsey
Sweet Clara is about a girl that is taken from he mother to wrok in a cotton field. She does not perform well as a field worker. Clara becomes a seametress. She dreams of a way to go make to her mother's loving house. How could she have a map with out being obvious.

Clara begins to make a special quilt, it is a map. Her master never realize the little girl was smart enough to create a map on a quilt.
She and several other slaves follow the quilt directions to escape to the Underground Railroad.

The story is heart felt. The subject matter of slavery is to be discussed with sensitivity.

Classroom Extensions
1. The teacher have the students to research online about how quilts can
have different meanings
2. The class can make a quilt that has the different school organizations on it.
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LibraryThing member marisa_9087
Sweet Clara is a book about a girl that is took away from her mother and assigned to labor in a cotton field, when she preformes poorly she then becomes a seametress. She dreams of ways to make it back home to her mother and how she can create a map without it being noticable to anyone. A quilt is what Clara comes up with because no one will ever think to believe that she would be smart enough to create a map on a quilt.

This story touched my heart, I couldnt imagine being took away from my mother. I thought this book would be good to teach the kids about slavery and how the matter of the subject should be handled with sensitivity.

In my classroom I would have the children to make there own quilts out of construction paper creating some type of map for themselves.
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LibraryThing member kapickens
Sweet Clara is a young girl who gets separated from her mother before her 12th birthday. This was very common during slavery times for young children to be taken away from their parents. She was forced to work in the fields from sunrise to sunset at varying times of the day and night. Her Aunt Rachel did seem to care about Clara's talent for making pretty quilt patterns. She only wanted Clara to get to work in the big house to impress her slaveowners. Later in the story, Clara discusses with her Aunt Rachel about running away. She uses a quilt to make a map to freedom and travel on a hidden boat owned by people that belonged to the Underground Railroad.

I can only imagine what horrors Clara and her family experienced during those times. It would have been very difficult for me to stay away from my family in a far away place forever.
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LibraryThing member mlboliver
"Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt," written by Deborah Hopkinson, is a story about a young girl, Clara, who is taken from her home and placed as a slave. Clara is placed as a laborer with a boy named Jack. They become close friends and pass time away by talking about running back home. While working at the Big House, Clara is introduced to adult slave, Rachael, whom is calls her aunt because she looks after Clara. Clara struggles to work in the fields, and Rachael feels sorry for her, so she teachers how to sew so she can work in the big house as a seamstress. While working as a seamstress, Clara listens to all the hustle and bustle about in the house. She learns of people escaping and begins to ask questions about where people are going. Clara learns people are going to Canada to escape slavery. While thinking about escaping, Clara thinks of an idea to help her escape. She decides to set back scrap material and sew a quilt as a map of the escape route.People help Clara with details of the route. She used different patterns and colors as marks of different areas leading to Canada. A couple years pass by, and Clara finishes her quilt and she and Jack leave on their escape. On the way to Canada, Clara and Jack pick up her mother and sister,and one can assume that Clara and her family, plus Jack, make it to Canada safely.

This story is heartbreaking. To think that people were actually slaves is hard for me to fathom. The character of Aunt Rachael is somewhat humbling considering the situation. Hopefully, every slave child had an Aunt Rachael, but I know that isn't realistic, just hopeful thinking. Children should read the story of Clara to better understand history and what African-Americans endured.

"Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt" could be used to illustrate the importance of not giving up, and the importance of using your mind to solve issues. I think this book would be instrumental when discussing the history of slavery with a classroom. Furthermore, maybe the teacher could launch a craft project with this book. For instance, the teacher could give children a large piece of construction paper and ask them to create their own quilt.
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LibraryThing member amymonjeau
Clara that moves into her aunt Rachel's house, they work as slaves for the people in the big house. Her aunt teaches clara how to make a quilt . clara and her brother walk off the plantation to deliver the freedom quilt to their mother.

Understanding how slaves delt with not having any freedom. making a quilt is time consumed and have to be really good at make a quilt .

Using this in the classroom for students, having them color a page of a quilt and what their quilt meanings to them.
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LibraryThing member julieah
Clara is a young slave who works as a seamstress. Overhearing other slaves talk of the way to freedom, Clara creates a patchwork quilt that can guide others to freedom. When Clara escapes, she leaves the quilt in hopes of saving others as well. This book is a good introduction to a unit on slavery. Slavery is a difficult topic to talk to very young children about, which makes this book a nice way to get children thinking about the idea without showing them the horrors at a young age. The oil paintings are beautiful but sometimes seem too beautiful for the words printed on the page. Overall it was a well-written book and an inspiring story for young children.… (more)
LibraryThing member kmlopez
This is a story about a girl who is a slave and who works as a seamstress. She creates this quilt that is really a map by listening to all of the passed down stories about how to find freedom. Once she finally escapes, she leaves her quilt to help others escape as well.
LibraryThing member anita.west
Sweet Clara and The Freedom Quilt is special story about a little girl and her journey to freedom. Clara was a slave; she was torn from her family and sent off to work for a new master. Clara found her talent as a seamstress and used her skill and wit to create a map of the land. Her map to others was simply a patterned quilt but to her it is a map to freedom and a way to reconnect with her family.

This is a very humbling story. It allows the reader to step back in time and hear about what life must have been like for slaves. The pictures are beautiful and really help tell the story. Though I have never experienced anything like sweet Clara, reading this book and others like it help me to connect and relate to these historical times.

This book would be a wonderful addition to a classroom library. I envision having my students participate in making a freedom quilt of their own. A quilt to tell their story just as Clara did. I also would use this story to help teach the children about the Underground Railroad. It would be neat to read this story and Moses together and then have a discussion on slavery and freedom.
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LibraryThing member sarahdvs
Summary: This book is about a little girl that is twelve years old and got sent away to a home plantation because they needed help but the girl didn't want to eat or drink. The girl had a friend that was like a aunt but wasn't her blood aunt that taught her how to sew, and in the end this little girl was able to see her mom. She made a quilt all my herself and she was proud of it. The quilt made everybody happy.
Personal Reaction: My reaction to this book was that it is about slavery and wanting freedom. I think people everywhere and kids would be able to learn from this book.
Classroom Extension Idea: 1.The teacher could teach the students about how sewing helps. 2. The students could be taught about the slavery that happened so many years ago.
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LibraryThing member karen.strachan
Summary: This book is about an eleven year old slave girl named Clara separated from her mother. She was sent to a Home Plantation to work as a field hand. Aunt Rachel found her on the floor one night passed out and knew she would not last in the fields. She taught her how to sew, so Clara could be a real seamstress. In The main house she would here the drivers talking about slaves running away by way of the Underground Railroad. She asked questions about this and discovered this was the way to freedom. She made a quilt of a map of the land that had the directions of the Underground Railroad. One night after getting her mother and sister, Clara and her young male friend escaped one night to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Clara left behind the freedom quilt for other people to use.

Personal Reaction: I liked this book. It gave me more insight to the Underground Railroad. I am glad there were brave people to help African-Americans to freedom. The pictures in this book were illustrated from a man that is a descendent of slaves. The pictures tell the story and give visual details.

Classroom Extension: The teacher can used this book in a history lesson on slavery and the Underground Railroad. 2. The teacher can instruct her students to do imagery. The teacher can read the book aloud and the students can draw a map of the Underground Railroad.
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LibraryThing member abarajas09
Genre: Historical Fiction
Review: This is a good example of historical fiction because it focuses on Slavery and how a young girl dealt with that, and struggled because of separation from her family.
POV: The story is written in first person. The narrator is Clara herself. She is the girl who was sent away and separated from her family.
Media: Watercolors, pencil, color pencil
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LibraryThing member haldemac
Slavery, bravery. I love this story and often pair it's reading with literature group of The Drinking Gourd.
LibraryThing member Stephanyk
This book would be appropriate for the fourth and fifth grade. There is a lot of dialogue and writing on each page that may be harder for younger students to follow along. The story is about a slave girl named Sweet Clara who has to leave her mother to work on a Plantation at a young age. She always dreams about reuniting with her mother again. One day she hears people talking about the Underground Railroad and how they help slaves runaway. The only problem is that they do not have a map. So, Sweet Clara begins to create a map by making a quilt. She carefully listens in on conversations to hear about where certain fields and rivers are. At the end she memorizes the quilt and finds her way to her mother and freedom.
Uses in classroom:
- Lesson on slavery.
-Teach children to make a map.
- The class can make quilt. Each student will design a part of the quilt by sewing something special to them on it.
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LibraryThing member britwidenhouse
This is a book about a young girl who is sent away to live on a plantation. Because she was angry that she got sent away she refused to eat or drink anything. The girls aunt teachers her how to make a quilt. she got to see her mom and the quilt made everyone happy.

Personal Reaction:
This is a good book to read when trying to educate yourself or someone else about freedom and slavery.

Classroom Extension ideas:
Good read aloud when learning about slaver, Also teavh about sewing
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LibraryThing member JessicaFayeD
In the beginning of the story this little girl worked in the fields with the other workers but wasn't as good as the others. So her aunt moved her to quilting, the little girl did not like this at first. In the mean time she overheard that there was a way to get to freedom. So she decides to sew a map onto this quilt and find her way out to freedom, with her friend.

Personal Reaction:
This book was very good. I loved how it explains different scenarios of how all slaves had their way to freedom. I enjoyed how this little was smart enough to sew such a map on a quilt.

Classroom Extension Ideas:
A good idea would be to have the children in the classroom talk about there diversity so that all the children can learn about it. And have the children also draw maps.
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LibraryThing member aclemen1
Clara is a young slave girl who was raised on a plantation. She found the secrets in the quilts, that the women created, the messages for the underground railroad. This is part of history; it helps us to understand how things were back then and how some people were able to comminucate without speaking about the hidden underground railroad.… (more)
LibraryThing member CaseyKamps
Clara made a map of the land between her and freedom out of scraps of cloth to form a quilt. This story is very inspirational so i would read it to my student.(Black history month?) Grades 2-4
LibraryThing member KristenLaSorsa
Sweet Clara and The Freedom Quilt is about a little girl who lives with her "aunt" and they work as slaves. Clara started out working in the fields and she was definately not cut out for it. Her aunt decided that she would teach her how to sew and make quilts. She taught Clara and she knew how to quilt all kinds of different quilts. One night people were over at their house talking about the Underground Railroad and if only there was a map to help people get out. Clara got the idea to make this map with her quilting. She worked long and hard on quilting this map until finally it was time for them to leave. She left her quilt so others could use it to get free one day as well. She had the whole thing memorized anyway. They found their way out to freedom.

Personal Reaction:
I thought this was a really good story, and I have never heard it before. I found it very interesting and it is a very good way to show the story of the Underground Railroad to children.

Classroom Extensions:
1. You could make a class quilt. Have every student bring a piece of frabic from home that means something special to them or to their family and sew and quilt them all together to make a class quilt.
2. You could have your students make different maps of the classroom or of the school.
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LibraryThing member ChelseaRenee
This book is about a young girl named Clara who is a slave who was separated from her mother and forced to work in the fields but workings in the fields became too hard for Clara so she started making quilts one day she overheard about people escaping and becoming free so trying to help she made a quilt with the map to freedom on it

Personal Reaction:
I love this book even as a child I found this to be an interesting book it shows children that even small things can help in the biggest ways.

Classroom Extension Ideas:
1. You could read this book to your children during black history month
2. The class can design their own quilt (using paper of course)
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LibraryThing member JenniferSaville
This story follows Sweet Clara as she learns to sew in the Big House, and then quilts a map to lead other slaves to freedom.

I loved the bright colors and vivid pictures. I also liked that the author used syntax and diction authentic to the time and geographic location.

Classroom Extensions:
1. Make a collage map of the school using magazine pages.
2. Proceed to use the map in pairs/teams in a trust building activity. One member on each team or pair will be responsible for leading the others out of the school for recess.
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(77 ratings; 4.4)
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