Book Review: When Harriet Met Sojourner

Book Review: When Harriet Met Sojourner

This week’s book review is on When Harriet Met Sojourner by Catherine Clinton, Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

When Harriet Met Sojourner tells the story of the lives of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth and creates a brief story of the time the two women met.  The story is told in an alternate pattern with one page sharing information about Sojourner, the next about Harriet, and so on until the two women meet.  The illustrations are rich with texture and visually striking.

Being a huge admirer of both of these women, I wish I could wholeheartedly recommend this book.  After being given brief biographical information on each of the women, we come to the point where the two women meet in Boston in 1864.  This is, of course, the point of this book, but it is entirely anticlimactic. The author notes that there were no recordings of this meeting, so what actually happened is anyone’s guess.  In this case, the author weaves together a lovely story of their “kinship of spirit.” I don’t dispute that this kinship may have been real, but it is well known that the two women were very different in their personalities and methods, and they had contrasting opinions on President Lincoln. Surely these things would have come up in their time together. The author omits this, though, opting instead for a more unifying message.

To my best knowledge, the background information in this book is accurate. However, the reader is led to believe that Harriet was more obedient than she actually was reported to be. Clinton notes that Harriet moved “from one master to another” but does not share that one of the reasons for that was because Harriet so often fought back against the cruelty she endured. I find this to be an unfortunate omission, as her early years of defiance is an empowering message.

Given the topic of this book, it obviously deals with slavery and the civil war.  It assumes the reader is already familiar with these things, and if they are not, this book would not make for a good introduction. While this would be an OK addition to your library, you are probably better off introducing your children to individual biographies of these two women.

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