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Cover image for Almost to freedom
Almost to freedom
Publication Information:
Minneapolis, MN : Carolrhoda Books, c2003.
Physical Description:
1 v. (unpaged) : col. ill. ; 29 cm.
Reading Level:
530 L Lexile
Added Author:
Tells the story of a young girl's dramatic escape from slavery via the Underground Railroad, from the perspective of her beloved rag doll.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book EASY NEL 1 1
Book EASY NEL 1 1

On Order



Lindy and her doll Sally are best friends - wherever Lindy goes, Sally stays right by her side. They eat together, sleep together, and even pick cotton together. So, on the night Lindy and her mama run away in search of freedom, Sally goes too. This young girl's rag doll vividly narrates her enslaved family's courageous escape through the Underground Railroad. At once heart-wrenching and uplifting, this story about friendship and the strength of the human spirit will touch the lives of all readers long after the journey has ended.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

As she explains in an author's note, Nelson (Mayfield Crossing) 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, who begins, "I started out no more'n a bunch of rags on a Virginia plantation." Miz Rachel stitches Sally together for her daughter, Lindy, who hugs the doll and tells her, "We gonna be best friends." Through Sally's perceptive eyes, readers catch a hard-hitting glimpse of slave life: as mother and daughter pick cotton under the gaze of an overseer, Sally hears him holler at them "like he's talkin' to a couple of horses." And after "Massa" whips Lindy when she asks his son how to spell her name, the tearful girl vows to her doll that someday "we be goin' to Freedom." 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. Readers will be saddened by this turn of events-until another escaping slave child makes the doll her own. Nelson's writing is immediate and often lyrical. Yet it is Bootman's (The Music in Derrick's Heart) realistic paintings, distinctive for their skillful use of light and darkness, that best convey the story's pathos and urgency. Ages 6-10. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

This story of a young slave girl's escape via the Underground Railroad is told from the unique perspective of her rag doll in the authentic vernacular of the period. Lindy's doll, Sally, goes everywhere with Lindy. When Lindy and her mother run away, Sally is with them: Feels like I'm flyin'. The dramatic paintings effectively capture the tense moments of the journey. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Gr. 1-3. Lindy's beloved rag doll, Sally, tells how Lindy's family escapes on the Underground Railroad to find freedom in a place called North. The doll's narrative and Bootman's dark, dramatic paintings bring close the child's daily experience: the cruel separation and physical punishment, and then the adventure of running away and hiding. At times it's hard to distinguish Sally from Lindy--why not just let the child tell the story herself? But then there's an anguished twist in the plot: the child and her doll are separated. Lindy gets away, but in the turmoil she leaves her doll behind. When another escaping child finds Sally and hugs her to herself, the story comes full circle. That's a powerful way to express the sorrow of loving families torn apart, and Bootman's stirring portraits, many of them set at night, in rich shades of purple and brown, show that the small rag doll bears witness to historical events of cruelty and courage. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2003 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1-4-A compelling story told from the point of view of an enslaved child's beloved rag doll. Made for young Lindy by her mama, Miz Rachel, the hand-stitched toy is the girl's most prized possession. She tells her, "Your name be Sally. We gonna be best friends." When the child's father is sold and Lindy is beaten for asking Massa's son how to spell her name, the horrid conditions of the cotton plantation become intolerable. One night Miz Rachel wakes Lindy and they run for their lives. They are reunited with Mr. Henry and the fugitive family heads North to freedom. They are given shelter at a station on the Underground Railroad, but must flee from slave catchers in the middle of the night. In the frantic scramble, Sally is left behind. The doll is lonely for her friend and worries for the safety of Lindy and her folks. When another child and her mother are sheltered in the basement, the doll joins her new best friend on her trip to Freedom. This accessible story is told in language that is within the experience of a young child and makes its impact without frightening or overwhelming readers. It is ultimately a story of hope and resilience, love and friendship. The evocative oil paintings are expertly rendered and effectively convey the powerful emotions of the tale. A fine addition to most collections.-Luann Toth, School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

A doll's-eye view of slavery and escape fails to succeed. Miz Rachel fashioned Sally out of cloth for her little girl, Lindy. Doll and girl spend all their time together in the field working, at the meetings where freedom is discussed, and even when Lindy's papa is sold "down the river." Every last familiar plot twist is here: the difficult field work, the cruel overseers, the beating Lindy endures when she is caught writing words in the sand, the harrowing escape, the reunion with Lindy's papa, who has somehow managed to meet his family on a darkened river road, and the kindly white couple who hides the threesome in a cellar. Dark, expressive paintings accompany the narrative, though the brilliantly white headscarves seem oddly misplaced during the nighttime escape. The dialect fluctuates haphazardly from sentence to sentence losing the voice altogether. The unusual choice of a doll as narrator may appeal to some readers. Reread Deborah Hopkinson's Under the Quilt of Night (2001) instead. (author's note, limited glossary) (Picture book. 6-10) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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