Follow the drinking gourd

by Jeanette Winter

Paperback, 1988



Call number




Scholastic (1988)


By following the directions in a song, "The Drinking Gourd," taught them by an old sailor named Peg Leg Joe, runaway slaves journey north along the Underground Railroad to freedom in Canada.

User reviews

LibraryThing member kirkonly
Tells the story of man who travels from farm to farm, acting as a worker while he teaches the slaves a song that would lead them to freedom- by following the drinking gourd. It tells of the slaves’ journeys to freedom as they follow the words to the song and the ways they were helped and
Show More
threatened along the way.

As a student i liked this book alot. i liked finding out how the slaves got to freedom. The story is very historical and should be read by everyone. Higly recommended

As a teacher this is a great book to use not only as a historical book, but as a book in general. I could use this book to show how songs and the stars were used not only by the slaves but by other races in different time periods. Great book.
Show Less
LibraryThing member WPrice
Summary: This book is about the underground railroad were this man named Peg Leg Joe told people to follow the drinking gourd (Big Dipper) to were he was waiting with a boat to take them across the Idaho River so they could get to the steamboat that is going to take them across Lake Erie to
Show More

Reaction: This book puts the underground railroad in a very realistic perspective that kids can follow easily and be able to understand.

Extension #1: I could talk to the kids a little more about the underground railroad.

Extension #2: I could teach the kids the song that is in the book.
Show Less
LibraryThing member chendri
Set back in the days of slavery, this book is about a Peg-legged man who would work on the slave farms to free the slaves. He would sing them a song to follow the stars North to Canada to safety. Along the way there were families that would take the slaves in for a nights rest and food. Although
Show More
there were obstacles along the way, they all made it to Canada safely.

I liked this book, it is well illustrated and tells the story very well. It is a part of history, but something that would never be heard of in those days. Someone actually tryinfg to help people rather than hinder them further.

This is a good book to have for when a teacher does a unit on History and/or Black History Month. Students can learn that there was good along with the bad in the History of our Country.
Show Less
LibraryThing member amberntaylor
Peg Leg Joe secretly mapped a journey for slaves to escape to freedom. With the help of Peg Leg Joes song of the route to freedom, Molly, James and their family start their journey to freedom. They are able to find their way to different hiding places. These hiding places are set up by different
Show More
people that want to help slaves become free. Do Molly, James and their family make it to freedom.

I thought this book was simply put and would be great to read to younger grades. It has a great story of wonderful heroes and an adventurous plot.

You could have the students get in groups and make up their own song that they would use to map the journey to freedom. You could also have them draw a map of their way to freedom as they see it in their head.
Show Less
LibraryThing member familymoments
I found it very strange the girls loved this book. We got a couple of gourds, cut the tops, and make decorative drinking gourds for them. We watched a video from another book based on the same history of following the drinking gourd beautifully narrated with the book illustrations. We loved both
Show More
books. Great for studying this period in American history. We'll come back to this at an older age for sure.
Show Less
LibraryThing member wendyfincher
Summary: This is a story about a man named Peg Leg Joe. He was a former slave who came back to the South to help free slaves. He would go to farms and do odd jobs and teach slaves a song that would lead them to freedom. The song is called "Follow the Drinking Gourd."
LibraryThing member AshleyFletcher
Follow The Drinking Gourd is a story about slaves on the underground railroad. How Peg Leg Joe taught the slaves a song that would lead them to freedom. He would get a job w the slaves master and after the work was done he taught them follow the drinking gourd song. When the slaves knew it by heart
Show More
he would move on to the next master. One day Molly watched her man James get sold to a new owner and they only had one more night together. So they remembered the song Peg Leg Joe taught them and they followed the gourd until the found him and he took them to the first safe house on the underground railroad. They continued on the underground railroad until they made it to safety in Canada.

I can not relate to this book but I have learned a lot about what happened in the time of slavery. It is what I would call wrong and non-human. No one deserves the punishment the slaves were put through but it was people like the ones who were involved in the underground railroad who made some of the slaves life a better thing.

In the classroom, I would have my students do an art project on the underground railroad. I can also have them do a research paper on the slaves.
Show Less
LibraryThing member K.Perez33
Peg Leg Joe was a passionate white man who wanted to help the slaves get free. When the sun fell he would teach "a song of freedom" to the slaves. This story tells of a family who had a visit from Peg Leg Joe and decided one night to "follow the drinking gourd." They came upon many obstacles
Show More
throughout their journey, but they knew it was all worth it when they came across the shores of Lake Erie.

Personal Reaction: This book reminded me of when i was younger. I was in vocal lessons and had to learn the same song. I enjoyed it a lot. It shows the struggles of the slaves, and it broke my heart to think that they had to go through so much to attempt to get free.

Extension: I would definitely use this book when Black History month came upon the school year. Also, this book would be good to tell the students when learning the song "Follow the drinking gourd" so that the students know how the song came about and what it was about.
Show Less
LibraryThing member lmaddux
black history month, would use this be used to for history, have kids think about what they would do in this situation.
LibraryThing member JordySizemordy

This is a story about Peg Leg Joe, and his efforts on the underground railroad. He would go from master to master, and while he completed his odd jobs he would teach the slaves a song that would lead them to freedom. All they had to do was remember to "follow the drinking gourd."


Show More
love the magic of historical fiction. It gives the reader an opportunity to see what what life was really like during a completely different time period. Fiction gives the history aspect enough light to spark the attention of the reader, but it is the facts that teach the reader about another time.

Extension Ideas

Print out a version of the old slave song "Follow the Drinking Gourd", and have the class sing it together.

Use this book as a gateway to an entire section about the underground railroad and its effects on American life.
Show Less
LibraryThing member BrittN
Follow the Drinking Gourd is about a slave family that has to find freedom because the dad was being sent to another plantation. They had met a guy named Peg Leg Joe who had taught them a song about freedom. The slave family began to sing the song and left the plantation at night to
Show More
follow the drinking gourd. After traveling for weeks they get to the end of the river to see the old man waiting to take them across the river. They get to stay in different houses for a few weeks where they were fed and bathed. They eventually make it to Canada where they are safe from slavery.

Personal Reaction:
This was a really good book. I enjoyed it although at first glance at the book I did not think I would like it. It is a heart touching story that I would love to read to my kids one day to teach them the importance of helping out others that need help.

Classroom Extension Ideas:
1. I would use this book in a unit about slavery. I would read the story to the class and then talk about the Underground Railroad. We would sing the song that is in the back of the book and I would have them put actions with the words. That way they will remember the song and hopefully learn to help others out.

2.I could use this book in a unit about helping out other people. I would read the book and then ask the class how they help out others that need help. I would have them write their own song on how to help out someone.
Show Less
LibraryThing member hd071338
Historical: This story about a slave named Joe who has a peg leg who taught other slaves a song that would help them find their way to freedom. The song told the slaves to keep following the drinking gourd as they climbed mountains and crossed streams. On the way to freedom the slaves had to hide
Show More
in trees to hide from the masters houndogs. The slaves continued to sing the song that was taught to them that said to follow the drinking gourd and eventually the slaves found the drinking gourd where they could be free.

I thought that this book was very similar to the book "Under the Quilt of Night." I definately enjoyed this book because the slaves kept singing a song that told them how to get to freedom just by following the drinking gourd.

This book can teach children the history of what slaves went through to be free. I thought this book can teach children to become more interested in the history of slaves because children do not know how lucky they are to have the freedom that slaves did not have over a hundred years ago.
Show Less
LibraryThing member jthuro1
Follow the Drinking Gourd is an intense and fairly honest look at the Underground Railroad. A great book to introduce a concept and time in American history that can be hard to discuss with children but is nonetheless extremely important. This book shows the importance of kindness, perseverance,
Show More
humanity, and charity during times of desperation and uncertainty. The song throughout the book provides the reader with a guide and hope that the characters will reach freedom.
Show Less
LibraryThing member KristalKangasHanes
This is the story of an old sailor, Peg Leg Joe, who traveled as an overseer of slaves teaching the the song "Follow the Drinking Gourd". This song is encoded with directions to freedom in Canada. Molly and James are a slave family that is given one more evening together before the family get split
Show More
up by James being sold. They flee north, and the story tells of their struggles getting to freedom. This book includes the musical score of the song "The Drinking Gourd".
Show Less
LibraryThing member brownkatie
Summary: There once was an old man who sought to help free slaves. He taught many of them a song which could lead them to freedom. This story is about a family who only had one more night together so they followed the drinking gourd to freedom. It tells of their struggle and travels that led them
Show More
to freedom.

Personal Reaction: I liked this story, it is very educational. I have always learned about the underground railroad in schools but I've never read an actual book about the different ways they traveled. It would be a good book to have in the classroom when learning about the civil war and all the struggles slaves faced.

Classroom extensions:
1. Include this story in a lesson about the civil war. Have students research to find other methods slaves used to escape to freedom.
2. Learn different constellations that people have used over time to help them locate things and travel when learning a astronomy unit. Have students draw and illustrate different constellations and hang on ceiling of classroom.
Show Less
LibraryThing member MaryKateCollins
This is a great story, describing the underground railroad in a song. The main characters are a couple and their son as well as a few others, make their exodus to the north. The illustrations use bold colors to create a vivid idea of the culture and the time frame.

Personal Reaction:
Show More
read this book when I was younger and I loved the illustrations as well as the song that went along with the story!

Classroom Extensions:
Research the actual route of the underground railroad
Write in a diary or a journal as one of the characters from the story
Show Less
LibraryThing member natalie.loy
This children’s book is based off the history of the Underground Railroad during the mid-1800’s. It is a children’s book that tells the story of how slaves used to sing a song called Follow the Drinking Gourd to communicate in the fields. In the story, there is a white sailor named Peg Leg
Show More
Joe who teaches the slaves the song to sing in the fields. Then when it is safe they run away and following the Big Dipper or Drinking Gourd because it leads them north towards freedom. This particular story is about a family escaping to freedom. They are runaway slaves. When they escape and become runaway slaves they must hide in trees and bushes during the day and then run at night using the stars as a guide. Also along the way there are houses they are able to stay in, and they know this by a light on the porch when they come to the houses. The runaway slave family get directions at every stop of where to go next and how to get there. The story ends with the family crossing Lake Erie and they are free. This is a great picture book to teach what and how the Underground Railroad was used.
Show Less
LibraryThing member mnahardiman
This is the story of Peg Leg Joe, who helped free the slaves. He went to work for slave owners and taught the slaves a song that told them how to escape. He became their way to freedom. Once they reached him, he carried them across the river, and to the Underground Railroad. Lamps were lit
Show More
where it was safe for runaways to stay. There were trap doors and hidden rooms where they hid until it was safe to continue their travels all the way to Canada where they found freedom.
Personal Reaction
Great story that reflects on what was real life. Another story that I question what age is a good age to start talking about these things.
Classroom Extension
1. Stars and constellations
2. Learn the drinking gourd song
Show Less
LibraryThing member christianf
This story was about an old man who helped free slaves. He did this by teaching them a song that would lead them too freedom. The family in the story had one last night together and they used the song to become free.

I enjoyed reading this story and listening to the song
Show More
that came with it.

This story could be used for a lesson plan in civil rights or during black history month. This could also be used to teach the students the song that came with it.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Nijania
Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter is a story of Peg Leg Joe leading slaves to freedom. The illustrations in this book are simply amazing. The texture of the illustrations are gritty. I would read this to fourth and fifth graders because I feel they would understand it a lot better than
Show More
lower level elementary school students. This is a timeless book that can be read at any age and still greatly impact a person. This book incorporates literature and history, so I feel as if students would get two lessons in one. Students could delve further into the Underground Railroad, slavery, and the people that helped them.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Taranto
This is a story that could also fall under the folklore or multicultural genre. There is also a song that goes with it, from which this story was based on. It is a story about slaves traveling on the Underground Railroad to freedom. They follow the drinking gourd, or as is better known as the
Show More
constellation, the Big Dipper, because that will lead them north to freedom; the North Star is part of the constellation. This book could accompany a science unit on starts and constellations, or could be used to demonstrate the importance of setting and time in historical fiction texts. Look for the cd that goes with the book; it has Morgan Freeman as the narrator-pretty cool!
Show Less
LibraryThing member wichitafriendsschool
Told in the form of a folk song, the story begins with a peg-leg sailor who aids slaves on their escape on the Underground Railroad. While working for plantation owners, Peg Leg Joe teaches the slaves a song about the drinking gourd (the Big Dipper). A couple, their son, and two others make their
Show More
escape by following the song's directions. Rich paintings interpret the strong story in a clean, primitive style enhanced by bold colors. Read aloud and discuss with grades 1 and up.
Show Less
LibraryThing member jthodesen01
This is a great book to utilize in an elementary school, lower level, classroom. It utilizes beautiful figurative language and utilized music lyrics, or poetry, about following a drinking gourd to freedom. It is a great introductory book to discussions on the Underground Railroad. I would read this
Show More
book to my classroom, not as an independent read. This language is not challenging to comprehend, but the subject of slavery and freedom can be complicated, so reading this book and then discussing it as a class will be beneficial.
Show Less
LibraryThing member uufnn
". . .One legendary conductor in the Underground Railroad was a one-legged sailor named Peg Leg Joe. Joe hired himself out to plantation owners as a handyman. Then he made friends with slaves and taught them what seemed a harmless folk song--'Follow the Drinking Gourd.' But hidden in the lyrics of
Show More
the song were directions for following the Underground Railroad." Source: Unnumbered front page of the book in "A Note About the Story."
Show Less


Young Hoosier Book Award (Nominee — Picture Book — 1992)
Cardinal Cup (Noteworthy — 1989)
Reading Rainbow Program Selection (Selection — 96 — 1993)



0590994964 / 9780590994965

Other editions

Page: 0.2622 seconds