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Walking Home to Rosie Lee

Cinco Punto Press
978- 1-93369-397-2
$16.95 hardcover

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Walking Home to Rosie Lee

Young Gabe's is a story of heartache and jubilation. He's a child slave freed after the Civil War. He sets off to reunite himself with his mother who was sold before the war's end. "Come morning, the folks take to the road again, singing songs, telling stories, and dream-talking of the lives they're gonna live in freedom. And I follow, keeping my eyes open for my mama. Days pass into weeks, and one gray evening as Mr. Dark laid down his coat, I see a woman with a yellow scarf 'round her neck as bright as a star. I run up to grab her hand, saying, Mama?" Gabe's odyssey in search of his mother has an epic American quality, and Keith Shepherd's illustrations—influenced deeply by the narrative work of Thomas Hart Benton—fervently portray the struggle in Gabe's heroic quest. To learn more about the illustrator, Keith Shepherd, click here.

Awards and Recognition

Stepping Stones Honor Book
2012 IRA Teachers Choice
2012 Bank Street School of Education Best Books of the Year
2012 Kentucky Bluegrass Award nominee


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 … A truly wonderful pairing of words and pictures. —Don Tate, The Brown Bookshelf

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." Publishers Weekly

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. … 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.” Kirkus Reviews


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