Title: Walking Home to Rosie Lee
Author: A. LaFaye
Illustrator: Keith D. Shepherd
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
Audience: First grade and up, parents and children
Summary: Slavery separated many African American families as parents and children were sold and sent to different plantations. At the close of the Civil War these people were at last free to search for their loved ones. Freedmen’s Bureaus were established as clearing houses of information for people who were looking for their families. This poignant chapter in our history comes to life through Gabe, a boy searching for his mama, Rosie Lee. He joins the folks on the road who have freedom on their minds looking for work, dreaming dreams around night time camp fires, “all hope and hurry on.” Gabe’s memories of Rosie Lee-her sweet smell of jasmine, her good cooking, the yellow scarf around her neck, her sweet smile- keep him going month after month, town after town, until one day… The story ends with thanksgiving to God.
Literary elements at work in the story: This is a little known story in our tragic history of slavery that the author has researched through newspapers, diaries, articles and interviews. The story is told in Gabe’s voice that has a poetic, rhythmic quality. The illustrations complement this voice with strength and feeling.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? This is a story about poverty, prejudice, injustice, cruelty, sorrow that affects whole families but it is not a story about passive or helpless people.
Theological Conversation Partners: The story of Gabe and Rosie Lee can engage us on two levels. The first is the sad chapter of slavery in our nation’s history. Adults and children of any race benefit from knowing this and giving thanks for changes. The point is not to burden children with guilt but to help them see that such injustice can exist in our own society. The lost boys of Sudan, refugee families, families separated by war and poverty are reminders that this tragedy exists today. It’s a good plan to introduce children to something they can do when faced with wrong and the refugees of Sudan and now of Syria, offer an opportunity for prayer and gifts through denominational programs. The second level is found in the yearning of Gabe and his mother for each other. Psalm 90 begins, “Lord, you have always been our home. (TEV)” and home is not a place but a Person. The heart yearns for God as Gabe yearned for his mother. Jesus captured this in the story of the Prodigal Son. Luke 15. Psalm 42:1, 63:1 are further statements of this yearning. For both Gabe and his mother, their relationship comes from God and rests in God. Parents and caring adults are a sign of God’s love and we can help children be aware of the Giver.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Try to imagine what it would be like to have one of your parents taken to live in another town or place because they had been sold. This was once a practice in our country.
- Do you know of families that suffer separation today?
- Have you ever been homesick? Have you been homesick even if you were at home? Why?
- Who helped Gabe as he was searching for Rosie Lee?
- Are there adults as well as your parents who help you?
- Why do we love our parents and adults who help us?
- Jesus tells us that God is like a heavenly parent, father or mother, who wants to give us better gifts than even our real parents (Luke 11)
This review was written by regular contributor Virginia Thomas.