The Slave Boy



As Passover continues, so does the theme of slavery and liberation.  This week’s illustration comes from another assignment from the same publisher – Core Knowledge.  The slave ship shown last week is from a series of textbook images that focus on the slave trade.  This one is a story about life on a cotton plantation.

The little boy shown above has sneaked out of his mother’s shanty at night.  He is secretly planning their escape through the underground railroad.  Is it fantasy play, or a serious plan to liberate himself and his mother?  The text leaves young readers guessing – but one thing is clear:  this boy gets into mischief just like any other boy – and if his mother catches him sneaking into his bed of stuffed burlap, she’ll be mighty mad.

The Slave Boy 2Although this scene is a rather tidy and cheerful depiction of the life of a slave two hundred years ago in the American south, once again this is only meant to be a basic introduction to a complex and disturbing subject.  Adult films such as Amistad or Twelve Years a Slave – both highly recommended – will flesh out the real story – later.  For now, my goal as an illustrator is to show young readers how this slave boy is just like them.  We all could have been born slaves.  And like this little boy, we all have a natural yearning to be free.

And we all have to choose:  will we enslave ourselves or others?  Or will we strive to liberate?

It’s an ageless question well worth pondering each year on this ancient holiday.

A good week to all,

D Yael

Author / Illustrator of
THE HUNGRY HAGGADAH: A Passover Story in Rhyme
THE JEWISH EYE – 2016 /5776 calendar of art
JUST LIKE ME, CLIMBING A TREE: Exploring Trees Around the World
NEVER SAY A MEAN WORD AGAIN – A Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review;
winner of the Sydney Taylor Award and National Jewish Book Council Award
THE DREIDEL THAT WOULDN’T SPIN – A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah
WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING – A Children’s Book Council Notable Book
GREEN BIBLE STORIES FOR CHILDREN – Nat’l Green Book Festival Notable Book
A RIDE ON MOTHER’S BACK – An American Bookseller Assoc. Pick of the List
– and more!
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