by Ray Anthony Shepard
and Keith Mallett
In an unusual account of Ona Judge, who ran to escape enslavement in George Washington’s household, the narrator addresses Ona herself, asking, “Why you run Ona Judge? / You had fine dresses, fancy bonnets for your bushy black hair, soft shoes for your tender brown feet. Why you run Ona Judge?” The second-person narrative continues to describe Ona’s life in Washington’s home, continually returning to the rhetorical question, “Why you run Ona Judge?” After Ona makes her escape, the text begins to answer its repeated question: “You knew you were more … than a ten-dollar pet the lady wanted back. / You dreamed a dream you would make true. To read, to write, to do what you want, to go where you like, to make sure your children would not be enslaved … ” The realistic illustrations convey the determination in Ona’s facial expressions throughout and the drama inherent in her escape. (Ages 7-10)
CCBC Choices 2022. © Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2022. Used with permission.
Runaway: The Daring Escape of Ona Judge is the unique, poetic biography of Ona Judge, a biracial slave separated from her mother as a child to toil in the Philadelphia household of George and Martha Washington. Its visual and textual narratives open and close the book with Ona’s daring self-emancipation. A third-person narrator describes her work in small vignettes that each end with the rhetorical question, “Why you run Ona Judge?” This repeated inquiry presumes she had no reason to run away given her “privileged” life and work. Yet the accompanying fabric collage paintings debunk any such notion with the reality of her world over the years. These rich, poignant images enable readers to identify with Ona, lending clarity to the reality of slavery–even in the home of the powerful, white first president of the United States. This is particularly evident in the final, double-page spread (and cover) illustration that powerfully portrays Ona in a posture of inner strength, determination, and hope as she travels by boat toward freedom.
Announcing the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award 2022 Winners and Honor Books. © Jane Addams Peace Association, 2022. Used with permission.