Frederick’s Journey: The Life of Frederick Douglass, by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by London Ladd; Jump at the Sun, $17.99, 48 pages, ages 6-10.
Born a slave, separated from his family at age six, routinely starved and beaten, Frederick Douglass’ initiation into the world looked bleak. Undaunted and resilient, he overcame the odds and became one of the 19th century’s most influential voices for the abolition of slavery, even jeopardizing his hard-won freedom for the emancipation of others. Doreen Rappaport and London Ladd’s new biography of Douglass is a brilliant picture-book that pulses with electrifying energy. Rappaport weaves Douglass’ own words throughout the text, following with riveting precision the succession of events that led Douglass to overcome physical and psychological enslavement. Once Douglass understood the liberating power of literacy, he risked his own safety in order to learn to read, sneaking into his master’s library at night and trading food with local poor white boys in exchange for whatever meager instruction they could provide. These lessons, “more valuable than bread,” spurred Douglass to cut the bonds of slavery and flee North to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he eventually wrote his best-selling autobiography. Rappaport’s retelling of Douglass’ extraordinary life is expertly matched by Ladd’s richly detailed illustrations. The cover image gives readers a sense of what lays inside the covers: A full-page portrait of Douglass, eyes piercing and resolute, is a testament to an extraordinary man dedicated to freedom and equality for all.
Author’s and illustrator’s notes, timeline, and sourcenotes round out an outstanding addition to any child’s nonfiction library.