Overground Railroad

Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

The award-winning writer/illustrator team (Before She Was Harriet) explores the Depression-era story of the Great Migration in a stunning picture book. “We left in secret before Daddy’s boss knew,” Ruth Ellen explains, harkening back to another dangerous time, that of the Underground Railroad. She carries with her a book from that time a century before: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. She and her parents head north by train, transferring from its segregated compartments until they reach New York City, “bright lights tall buildings shimmering against a sky bright as a hundred North Stars.”

Paper collage, graphite, paste pencils, and watercolors complement Ruth Ellen’s story beautifully as the family moves to start a new life. The page of the Pullman porter taking down the “Whites Only” sign once the car crosses the Mason/Dixon line is especially moving, even as “white folks” put hands in empty seats. The family keeps walking through the car until they find smiles. A tour de force from a writer/illustrator duo that is a national treasure. Highly recommended.