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Runaway: The Daring Escape of Ona Judge

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Runaway is a powerful, lyrical OwnVoices picture book about the enslavement of Ona Judge and her self-emancipation from George Washington's household. Ona Judge was enslaved by the Washingtons, and served the President's wife, Martha. Ona was widely known for her excellent skills as a seamstress, and was raised alongside Washington's grandchildren. Indeed, she was frequentl Runaway is a powerful, lyrical OwnVoices picture book about the enslavement of Ona Judge and her self-emancipation from George Washington's household. Ona Judge was enslaved by the Washingtons, and served the President's wife, Martha. Ona was widely known for her excellent skills as a seamstress, and was raised alongside Washington's grandchildren. Indeed, she was frequently mistaken for his granddaughter. This biography follows her childhood and adolescence until she decides to run away. This book doesn't shy away from the horrors of slavery, nor the complex role of house servants. Author Ray Anthony Shepard implicates the reader in Ona's decision to emancipate herself by using a rhetorical refrain, "Why you run, Ona Judge?" This haunting meditation welcomes meaningful and necessary conversation among readers. Illustrator Keith Mallett's rich paintings include fabric collage and add further feeling and majesty to Ona's daring escape.


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Runaway is a powerful, lyrical OwnVoices picture book about the enslavement of Ona Judge and her self-emancipation from George Washington's household. Ona Judge was enslaved by the Washingtons, and served the President's wife, Martha. Ona was widely known for her excellent skills as a seamstress, and was raised alongside Washington's grandchildren. Indeed, she was frequentl Runaway is a powerful, lyrical OwnVoices picture book about the enslavement of Ona Judge and her self-emancipation from George Washington's household. Ona Judge was enslaved by the Washingtons, and served the President's wife, Martha. Ona was widely known for her excellent skills as a seamstress, and was raised alongside Washington's grandchildren. Indeed, she was frequently mistaken for his granddaughter. This biography follows her childhood and adolescence until she decides to run away. This book doesn't shy away from the horrors of slavery, nor the complex role of house servants. Author Ray Anthony Shepard implicates the reader in Ona's decision to emancipate herself by using a rhetorical refrain, "Why you run, Ona Judge?" This haunting meditation welcomes meaningful and necessary conversation among readers. Illustrator Keith Mallett's rich paintings include fabric collage and add further feeling and majesty to Ona's daring escape.

30 review for Runaway: The Daring Escape of Ona Judge

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bookishrealm

    This book is a book that I will be purchasing for my daughter. Thank you so much to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing me with a copy for review. Ya'll. I've read a lot of picture books that deal with slave narratives, but this was different. It centers around the story of Ona Judge who was a slave in the Washington household (yes President Washington). She specifically worked for Martha Washington as her seamstress and more. What was so unique about this particular narrative is that the au This book is a book that I will be purchasing for my daughter. Thank you so much to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing me with a copy for review. Ya'll. I've read a lot of picture books that deal with slave narratives, but this was different. It centers around the story of Ona Judge who was a slave in the Washington household (yes President Washington). She specifically worked for Martha Washington as her seamstress and more. What was so unique about this particular narrative is that the author, Ray Shepard, frames the book in the form of questions. He continuously asks her why she wants to run away when it's clear that she's being provided with so many "fancy things." The point that Shepard makes is that no matter "how good" a slave was treated they were still a slave. There isn't enough good treatment in the world that could possibly change that. Ona realized that she couldn't continue to live her life as "well-treated" slave and made the decision to run away. To be honest, I even enjoyed the fact that Shepard questioned the purpose of the Declaration of Independence. It wasn't created to provide freedom for all considering that White women, Black people, and Native Americans were not included. The artwork was also stunning. It looked as though it was done with oil paint. Colors were rich and deep. The portrait style of capturing faces really transports the reader into the time in which the author is setting his narrative. Overall, this was an AMAZING picture book. I cannot wait to see what other books this author has to offer.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sarina

    I’ve finally read my first book about Ona Judge, the enslaved woman who escaped the Washingtons to live out her own life as a free person. The poem doesn’t roll off the tongue, but it goes really well with the illustrations. “Why you run Ona Judge? You knew you were more Than a ten-dollar pet The lady wanted back. In an attic, basement, or room no one could see You waited for the boat To carry you on the Underground sea Where your future would not be enslaved For the rest 0f your days They called you I’ve finally read my first book about Ona Judge, the enslaved woman who escaped the Washingtons to live out her own life as a free person. The poem doesn’t roll off the tongue, but it goes really well with the illustrations. “Why you run Ona Judge? You knew you were more Than a ten-dollar pet The lady wanted back. In an attic, basement, or room no one could see You waited for the boat To carry you on the Underground sea Where your future would not be enslaved For the rest 0f your days They called you a runaway, a fugitive But Liberty rang for you 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 Like you Like your mother Your grandmother, and her mother, too? Is that why you ran? Then run, Ona Judge, run.”

  3. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    I really liked the lyrics here - the book flowed well and certain phrases are still stuck in my mind. I also really appreciate that this shows how Ona Judge had a "better" life than some other enslaved people, but that's not the same as being free. I really liked the lyrics here - the book flowed well and certain phrases are still stuck in my mind. I also really appreciate that this shows how Ona Judge had a "better" life than some other enslaved people, but that's not the same as being free.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    This picture book is a 3.5. I appreciated the use of the poetic form to tell Ona Judge's story as well as the repetitive lines "Why you run Ona Judge?" Since there are many individuals who find it hard to understand why someone like Ona with her place of privilege in a privileged white household such as the Washingtons would want to leave that position, that technique is quite effective. Alongside the illustrations that play with light and dark color and show some of the scenes in Ona's life, th This picture book is a 3.5. I appreciated the use of the poetic form to tell Ona Judge's story as well as the repetitive lines "Why you run Ona Judge?" Since there are many individuals who find it hard to understand why someone like Ona with her place of privilege in a privileged white household such as the Washingtons would want to leave that position, that technique is quite effective. Alongside the illustrations that play with light and dark color and show some of the scenes in Ona's life, the text makes it abundantly clear that even fine clothing, delicious foods, and access to powerful individuals could not make up for not being free to make one's own choices. As a house slave, Ona's lot was far easier than the field workers, but still, she had no say in whether she would leave home at 16 to live in New York City and Philadelphia when President George Washington and his wife Martha, whom Ona served, moved there. Perhaps all through the years of growing up, she held onto a dream of a very different life than her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother had led, and seized the very first opportunity to flee that she could. This story will make readers wonder what happened next and how someone so young--only 23 when she escaped from the Washingtons--had the courage to take these steps. Back matter includes a timeline and an Author's Note with additional information about Judge and slavery. The irony of Ona Judge's situation cannot be missed since she was owned by the wife of one of the nation's founders, someone who supported freedom and liberty. Once again, looking at the roots of this nation's history reveals problems from the beginning. Young readers will be caught up in Ona's plight while older readers will be curious and want to learn more about Ona and that time period. Is there anything more precious than freedom?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Bange

    Such an incredible and amazing explanation of why someone enslaved would want to set themselves free. Poetic text details exactly why Ona Judge sought to be emancipated from the George Washington household in this #OwnVoices pairing. Shepard's first picture book scores at the highest levels. His use of the poetic form with rhetorical questions throughout makes readers understand exactly what Ona Judge was thinking and feeling and why she would want to run away from this life. Compared to other ens Such an incredible and amazing explanation of why someone enslaved would want to set themselves free. Poetic text details exactly why Ona Judge sought to be emancipated from the George Washington household in this #OwnVoices pairing. Shepard's first picture book scores at the highest levels. His use of the poetic form with rhetorical questions throughout makes readers understand exactly what Ona Judge was thinking and feeling and why she would want to run away from this life. Compared to other enslaved servants, she had a "cushy job" - however had no rights, consideration, or respect as an equal to the "masters". The repeated refrain of "Why you run Ona Judge?" adds punch to each point, as if the reader is the curious one and hopes for answers - which only they can describe. Keith Mallett, a successful illustrator of several books for children, outdoes himself on this one. He shows the reader the range of emotions that Ona felt - from despair to sadness to fear to happiness. Each two-page spread is filled with details about the time and relationships between the people around her. The hope on her face about a bright future is palatable. I think my favorite is the one with Ona looking directly at the reader as Eliza responds to the attentions of the young man; I can mentally hear her thinking, "whatever!" Mallett has truthfully captured the essence of each of the Washington family and their friends. A stunning achievement! Perfect to open a discussion about why slavery is wrong that would be appropriate for younger grades through middle school. Highly Recommended for grades 2-8.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tasha

    Ona Judge was a slave in the household of George and Martha Washington. While Washington worked to free the fledgling union from the British, he depending upon slaves in his household. Ona began working in slavery for Martha Washington at age 10, often playing with their grandchildren and sometimes being mistaken for one of them. The book explores the posh lifestyle that Ona lived amongst and yet was not truly part of. She was treated well, but still enslaved. When she was given to one of the gr Ona Judge was a slave in the household of George and Martha Washington. While Washington worked to free the fledgling union from the British, he depending upon slaves in his household. Ona began working in slavery for Martha Washington at age 10, often playing with their grandchildren and sometimes being mistaken for one of them. The book explores the posh lifestyle that Ona lived amongst and yet was not truly part of. She was treated well, but still enslaved. When she was given to one of the granddaughters, Ona decided to escape. She chose the difficult life of a fugitive slave over than of the slavery. Shepard uses a particularly successful structure in this picture book. He frames Ona’s story by asking repeatedly why she ran? He points out the opulence she lived in and the remarkable moments in history she saw. Shepard thoroughly explains exactly why Ona escaped, showing her being taken from her mother at a young age, being treated as more of a pet than a person, and being given to the haughty granddaughter. The structure leads to the clear answers of why she needed to escape. Mallett’s illustrations beautifully evoke the historical period. They are filled with carriages, women’s clothing, fire places and some images of famous historical figures. It is Ona though who glows on the page, her face always lit from within and filled with the potential of freedom. A picture book that brings the shamefulness of slavery forward, showing that everyone needs to be free. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    This is a picture book story of the life and escape of Ona Judge, one of the people held as a slave by George and Martha Washington. It highlights that, as slavery goes, hers wasn't the worst life, but it was still slavery. Her father was a white indentured servant, which meant that he was eventually free, but she was not, because slavery was "inherited" from her mother. As an adult, she escaped from the Washington residence when she was being "given" to a granddaughter of the Washingtons. What m This is a picture book story of the life and escape of Ona Judge, one of the people held as a slave by George and Martha Washington. It highlights that, as slavery goes, hers wasn't the worst life, but it was still slavery. Her father was a white indentured servant, which meant that he was eventually free, but she was not, because slavery was "inherited" from her mother. As an adult, she escaped from the Washington residence when she was being "given" to a granddaughter of the Washingtons. What made this more interesting and more powerful is the fact that George Washington is the President who had signed the first federal Fugitive Slave Act, only three years before her escape. While not an in-depth biography, the story is an interesting and unusual one, and it belongs in schools and libraries.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Melissa the Librarian

    Wow, this book was excellent. The poetry of the book is great because it drives the narrative forward, while also addressing the question many seem to still ask--why would a well-treated slave flee? The illustrations also have an interesting, almost photograph-like quality that make characters like George Washington come alive. I think this book did a good job handling the fact that George Washington's family owned and profited from slaves, which is a part of history that is often overlooked or Wow, this book was excellent. The poetry of the book is great because it drives the narrative forward, while also addressing the question many seem to still ask--why would a well-treated slave flee? The illustrations also have an interesting, almost photograph-like quality that make characters like George Washington come alive. I think this book did a good job handling the fact that George Washington's family owned and profited from slaves, which is a part of history that is often overlooked or ignored. Highly recommend.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    I received an electronic ARC from MacMillan Children's Publishing Group. Spectacular illustrations accompany this informative text told in rhyme. Ona Judge was a slave who belonged to Martha Washington. The author shows she was treated with courtesy BUT was still regarded as property. Rather than be given to another member of the family, she risked her life and ran away to New Hampshire. Powerful message about acknowledging all parts of history. I received an electronic ARC from MacMillan Children's Publishing Group. Spectacular illustrations accompany this informative text told in rhyme. Ona Judge was a slave who belonged to Martha Washington. The author shows she was treated with courtesy BUT was still regarded as property. Rather than be given to another member of the family, she risked her life and ran away to New Hampshire. Powerful message about acknowledging all parts of history.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    WOW!!! A picture book biography of Ona Judge, a slave who escaped George Washington's home in Philadelphia despite the fact that she "had it good" for a slave. She escaped when she learned that she was going to be given to Washington's grandaughter, a difficult woman. Washington never stopped looking for her. A necessary book to introduce slavery during the revolution, when "all men are created equal". WOW!!! A picture book biography of Ona Judge, a slave who escaped George Washington's home in Philadelphia despite the fact that she "had it good" for a slave. She escaped when she learned that she was going to be given to Washington's grandaughter, a difficult woman. Washington never stopped looking for her. A necessary book to introduce slavery during the revolution, when "all men are created equal".

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This is fantastic book about Ona Judge, who was the personal slave of Martha Washington and a well-regarded seamstress, before emancipating herself by running away at 23-years-old. Ona led a relatively 'comfortable' life, with beautiful trappings and 'good' treatment. The poetic prose asks over and over, "Why you run Ona Judge?" But a gilded cage is still a cage, and the narrative ends with, "Run, Ona Judge, run." This is fantastic book about Ona Judge, who was the personal slave of Martha Washington and a well-regarded seamstress, before emancipating herself by running away at 23-years-old. Ona led a relatively 'comfortable' life, with beautiful trappings and 'good' treatment. The poetic prose asks over and over, "Why you run Ona Judge?" But a gilded cage is still a cage, and the narrative ends with, "Run, Ona Judge, run."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marcia

    This is an excellent picture book on every front. Important, engaging story, beautiful text, gorgeous illustrations, and back matter to flesh out the story. What a courageous young woman. A great one to include with any elementary study of our first president. He was a war hero and founding father, but he was also a slave holder. That part gets lost in many a narrative.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I think everything about this picture book is stunning! The illustrations are truly beautiful works of art and the poetry style is haunting and powerful. This is the true story of Ona Judge who was one of George and Martha Washington's slaves and her daring escape to freedom. A beautiful, heart breaking, courageous story. I think everything about this picture book is stunning! The illustrations are truly beautiful works of art and the poetry style is haunting and powerful. This is the true story of Ona Judge who was one of George and Martha Washington's slaves and her daring escape to freedom. A beautiful, heart breaking, courageous story.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Katelynne

    I did not know anything about Ona Judge and her story. With realistic illustrations and informative backmatter, this is a great book for kids. Some kids might not know the Washingtons had slaves, let alone the stories of enslaved people such as Ona Judge. I loved that the author reclaimed the questions people then (and now) asked enslaved folks when they ran away from "fine homes". I did not know anything about Ona Judge and her story. With realistic illustrations and informative backmatter, this is a great book for kids. Some kids might not know the Washingtons had slaves, let alone the stories of enslaved people such as Ona Judge. I loved that the author reclaimed the questions people then (and now) asked enslaved folks when they ran away from "fine homes".

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    Different from the traditional "enslavement" story, RUNAWAY tackles the complex life of a young girl considered to be in a privileged position even though she was enslaved. The refrain of why you run? brings the lyrical narrative together. Backmatter includes a short biography and timeline. Good for older readers. Different from the traditional "enslavement" story, RUNAWAY tackles the complex life of a young girl considered to be in a privileged position even though she was enslaved. The refrain of why you run? brings the lyrical narrative together. Backmatter includes a short biography and timeline. Good for older readers.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    A thought-provoking format for a picture book. Why would Ona Judge run away from a place where she has her own room, fine clothes, and servants to do chores for her? Great tool to spark a discussion with children about slavery.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Bell

    The story is great, but the telling is lackluster. Sorry Mr. Shepard, but just because it is a telling of a great story doesn't earn you many stars from me. I was getting pretty tired of the same lines repeated again and again. Ugh. The story is great, but the telling is lackluster. Sorry Mr. Shepard, but just because it is a telling of a great story doesn't earn you many stars from me. I was getting pretty tired of the same lines repeated again and again. Ugh.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Annamarie Carlson (she, her)

    Uses the framework of a poem with gorgeous illustrations to tell the story of Ona Judge, a slave in President George Washington's household. I like how this shows that Ona's life was "better" than the experience of the average slave; but better does not equal good or free. Excellent all around. Uses the framework of a poem with gorgeous illustrations to tell the story of Ona Judge, a slave in President George Washington's household. I like how this shows that Ona's life was "better" than the experience of the average slave; but better does not equal good or free. Excellent all around.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jacqui

    Sparse back matter.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bookish

    Outstanding.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Y.Poston

    A beautiful book. Continued questioning and gorgeous pictures carries the reader through the life of Ona Judge.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Julie Hedlund

    Powerful, poetic, important, and gorgeously illustrated.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Wonderful lyrical poem with a great refrain for young readers. Absolutely stunning artwork. This book would be fantastic for a readaloud.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    EARC from Mackids Amazing artwork accompanies this powerful story.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

  26. 4 out of 5

    Liz

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tanya

  28. 4 out of 5

    John

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mallory Hoffman

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