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Walking Home to Rosie Lee

Publishers Weekly
"Set at the end of the Civil War, this account of a freed slave boy’s search for his mother is distinguished by a vivid narrative voice and page-turning suspense."
"Set at the end of the Civil War, this account of a freed slave boy’s search for his mother is distinguished by a vivid narrative voice and page-turning suspense. Gabe describes the plans of the freed slaves he meets, but his only desire is to find his mother, Rosie Lee, who made pie so good that birds 'flew out of the sky to have them a taste,' and who wears a scarf 'to hide the scar from being dragged for trying to run free.' False hopes and disappointments build momentum before a rewarding conclusion brings mother and son together. Debut illustrator Shepherd contributes big, dramatic spreads, thickly painted and filled with the blues of night and the yellow light of fires and lanterns. In her first picture book, novelist LaFaye (The Keening) offers a vision of a compassionate population of freed slaves who offer food and succor to Gabe, who, in turn, recognizes that he’s not the only one suffering: 'That night, I slept snuggled up tight with my mama, praying for all those boys like me searching for their mamas who be searching for them.'”
- June 6, 2011 
Nikki Grimes, author of What is Goodbye?
"What a treat! LaFaye has applied her considerable literary gifts to tell a post-Civil War story we rarely, if ever, hear, and has done so in a style as musical as any poem I've ever read. The voices truly sing. Brava!"
The Brown Book Shelf
A. LaFaye tells the story in an authentic southern voice, with an emotional arc that tugs at the heart. Newcomer Keith D. Shepherd’s rich acrylic paintings bring the story to life. A truly wonderful pairing of words and pictures.
"The Civil War was fought and slaves were free. And now young Gabe wants to find his mother, Rosie Lee, sold away long ago. But finding her won’t be easy.

On the road, Gabe meets other people in search of their families, too — brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers — families torn apart, sold to plantations far away from each other. They sing songs, tell stories, share dreams about their future as free people. Gabe finds many disappointments during his months-long journey, but the image of his mother’s smiling eyes keeps him strong.

WALKING HOME TO ROSIE LEE offers young readers a glimpse into a journey made by many African Americans trying to find their loved ones following the Civil War and emancipation of slaves. A. LaFaye tells the story in an authentic southern voice, with an emotional arc that tugs at the heart. Newcomer Keith D. Shepherd’s rich acrylic paintings bring the story to life. A truly wonderful pairing of words and pictures."
- Don Tate, May 30, 2011 
Kirkus
"Applying paint in thickly brushed impasto, Shepherd views Gabe’s world and encounters from a child’s-eye height but gives the barefoot, raggedly clad boy a look of hard-won maturity that points to past sorrows and underscores the depth of his determination. His distinct voice will draw readers into caring about his quest and sharing the tide of joy that accompanies his ultimate success: 'That night, I slept snuggled up tight with my mama, praying for all those boys like me searching for their mamas who be searching for them.' A deeply felt narrative…"
"A Southern novelist looks to the Civil War’s immediate aftermath in this newly free child’s account of a weary search for his mother.

'War’s over. Government say we free. Folks be on the move. Getting the feel for freedom. Not me.' He joins the large number of ex-slaves who, 'all hope and hurry on,' have hit the road in search of brighter futures, but young Gabe has a different goal: tracking down his sold-away and only living parent Rosie Lee. Keeping his goal before him like the fixed North Star, he travels for months from Mobile to the 'worn-down toes of the Appalachian Mountains,' following vague leads from sympathetic listeners and offices of the Freedman’s Bureau, enduring hardships and disappointment. Applying paint in thickly brushed impasto, Shepherd views Gabe’s world and encounters from a child’s-eye height but gives the barefoot, raggedly clad boy a look of hard-won maturity that points to past sorrows and underscores the depth of his determination. His distinct voice will draw readers into caring about his quest and sharing the tide of joy that accompanies his ultimate success: 'That night, I slept snuggled up tight with my mama, praying for all those boys like me searching for their mamas who be searching for them.'

A deeply felt narrative, distilled from contemporary reports and documents."

- June 15, 2011 
Booklist
"One of the few titles to describe the cruel breakup of family under slavery from a small child’s viewpoint, this honest story also makes clear the anguish of the many loved ones who were lost and never found."
- November 1, 2011 
Children's Literature
"A read aloud that feels as if Gabe were sittin' on a porch telling how he found his mama. The story is strengthened by Shepherd's illustrations… Many classroom units will be well-served by this book. Parents and children will cry and cheer together."
"The Civil War has ended, the slaves have been freed, and now family members who were separated and sold are now trying to find one another. Young Gabe takes to the road with nothing but hope and the memories of his mama. For months he walks and he is helped and befriended by former slaves and freedmen. The rhythm of the text, the use of a repetitive phrase, and terms such as "Miss Dawn" and 'Mr. Dark,' all draw from the storytelling tradition. The result is a read aloud that feels as if Gabe were sittin' on a porch telling how he found his mama. The story is strengthened by Shepherd's illustrations. Strong brushstrokes in the artwork reflect Gabe's determination. The colors and tones used on each double-page spread reflect Gabe's up-and-down feelings. The gold tones surrounding Gabe and his mother on the last page complement the warmth of the text. While this is specific to a time period, it is also universal for anyone who has been separated from loved ones due to war. Many classroom units will be well-served by this book. Parents and children will cry and cheer together."
- Sharon Saluzzo, July 1, 2012 
Midwest Book Review
"Walking Home to Rosie Lee is written in a naturally cadenced, musical prose style that is both spiritual, Black, and authentic in its sound. Magnificent color illustrations display the vast array of faces and places encountered by young Gabe on his quest to find his mother. Walking Home to Rosie Lee is must-read literature for kids age 7 and up."
- December 27, 2011 
Civil War News
"A well-told story related by Alexandria LaFaye and enhanced by the wonderful full-page illustrations of Keith D. Shepherd. Their talents are combined to celebrate the search of “strength, love, and determination” represented by Gabe’s quest."
- November 10, 2011 
Compass Book Ratings 5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars
"Gabe is a relatable character and the story reads like he is talking to a friend. Creating a familiar relationship with the reader, it introduces them to the hardships of the time period, thus producing a perfect opportunity for children to be taught about the tough issues such as slavery, the Civil War, and inequality."
Childen's historical fiction author, A. LaFaye debuts her first picture book, Walking Home to Rosie Lee. Creatively told from the perspective of young Gabe, who after being freed at the conclusion of the Civil War, is in search of his mother. Adding to the book's charm are the illustrations done by Keith D. Shepard, who depicts the narrative perfectly, engaging readers in a truly endearing journey.

LaFaye brings exposure to a subject that is rarely discussed, the reunification process of African Americans during the reconstruction period. Though this is a heavy subject, LaFaye's depiction is light enough for young readers to understand, but still thought-provoking and authentic to the era, not demeaning the matter in the slightest. It's no wonder why this book has received high praise: 2012 Skipping Stone Honor Book, 2012 IRA Teachers' Choice Selection, 2012 Bank Street School of Education Best Books of the Year Selection.

This is a book that should be read in homes and schools. Gabe is a relatable character and the story reads like he is talking to a friend. Creating a familiar relationship with the reader, it introduces them to the hardships of the time period, thus producing a perfect opportunity for children to be taught about the tough issues such as slavery, the Civil War, and inequality.

Although I recommended this as a book to be read to ages 9+ I believe this book could be read to children who are younger, or those children who are just starting on the adventure of independent reading. If you are a more advanced reader (12+) that enjoys genre literature, you may try reading some of Author A. LaFaye's Juvenile historical fiction novels, or you may enjoy I Am David, by Anne Holm.
- Compass Book Ratings, August 17, 2014  Visit Website

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