Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt” as Want to Read:
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

4.3  ·  Rating Details ·  1,025 Ratings  ·  116 Reviews
2013 marks the 20th anniversary of Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt!

As a seamstress in the Big House, Clara dreams of a reunion with her Momma, who lives on another plantation--and even of running away to freedom. Then she overhears two slaves talking about the Underground Railroad. In a flash of inspiration, Clara sees how she can use the cloth in her scrap bag to make a
Paperback, 40 pages
Published July 10th 1995 by Dragonfly Books
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Errin Tucker
Apr 12, 2012 Errin Tucker rated it really liked it
This story is a work of Historical Fiction and a picturebook designed for children P-A.

This was a great children's book about a young girl who learned to sew and created a quilt that became a map to get to the Underground Railroad. Though it took her a great deal of time to complete the quilt it became her map and a map for so many people to get to the Underground Railroad and to their freedom.

I really enjoyed reading this story. It's a great story of determination and can really encourage chil
Apr 19, 2012 Erin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: eced-221
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt is a story all about the life of an African American girl, and her hardships that are presented to her during slavery. During her early years as a slave, Clara and her mother became separated due to different buyers. At her new plantation, Clara meets a woman that becomes as close to family as her own aunts and uncles. "Aunt Rachel" attempts to protect Clara from the harsh conditions of working in the field, and lands her a job inside the Big House of the planta ...more
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt is an historical fiction picture book based on the "true,little-known chapter in African American history" - the Underground Railroad. 11 year-old Clara is separated from her mother and sent to be a field hand on a large plantation. When her sewing proves more valuable than her field work, Clara is moved inside the Big House. There she hears stories from other slaves describing freedom by way of the Underground Railroad.

Clara's sewing of patches on a blue blank
Ms. Rose
Mar 05, 2015 Ms. Rose rated it really liked it
Clara uses the power of community and creativity to sew a quilt that leads her back to her mother and to the Underground Railroad.
Feb 21, 2013 Liz rated it really liked it
excellent for discussion after reading about revolutionist sojourner truth
Jo Oehrlein
Dec 08, 2016 Jo Oehrlein rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Clara starts as a field hand, sold away from her mother. But, the "aunt" who takes her under her wing teaches her to sew and she gets a house job. She uses the talk she hears to create a map of the area on a quilt she stitches from scraps. Then, that map is what she uses to escape. She leaves the quilt behind to guide others.
This is a little dense for the usual picture-book crowd, but older kids might be too sad that Aunt Rachel is unable to reach freedom. As an adult I enjoyed the story and thought it was a good way to introduce the concept of the Underground Railroad, but I just didn't think it worked best as a picture book.
Nov 29, 2016 Karen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jacob, mom
Jacob read this book to me for his November Pizza Hut reading challenge. Excellent book!..krb 11/29/16
RLL220F16_Lashaundra McKenzie Lashaundra
Grade 3-5
This book was interested to me to see how a little girl was separated from her mother into slavery at the age of 11 years old. At the new plantation Aunt Rachel, not a "for- real blood aunt, but she took care of Clara. Aunt Rachel taught Clara how to sew. Aunt Rachel manages to get Clara out of the fields into the Big House as a seamstress. While working in the Big house Clara listens and learn how to make to freedom. She started to make a map out of scraps into a quilt of the plantatio
Feb 01, 2016 Bythedeed rated it really liked it
I'm slowly realizing there's dozens of picture books for kids about the Underground Railroad. Though I've only read a few, Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt is so far one of my favorites.

I've been thinking lately about how to talk to young children about race, slavery, and police (not necessarily with any unique insight) and this seems like it might be one of the better books to start with (though in general I find most plots in children's stories to be too upsetting for the age range like, Oh n
Theresa Reifon
Format/Length: Picture book; 40 pages

1993 Reading Rainbow Review Book
1995 Texas Bluebonnet Master List
1995 Kentucky Bluegrass Master List
1994 IRA Children's Book Award for Younger Readers
International Reading Association Award

Theme(s): Survival, Freedom, Dreams, Helping Others & Family


This story is about a young girl Clara who is separated from her mother because of slavery. Her mother lives on another plantation that she does, and Clara dreams about being wit
James Ransome (the illustrator) uses bright oil paintings to tell Hopkinson's story of Clara, a not quite 12 year old slave on a plantation, and her struggle to find freedom. The young girl learns of the Underground Railroad when her Aunt Rachel brings her to the Big House to work as a seamstress. While working in the sewing room off of the kitchen, Clara overhears the cook and other kitchen slaves discussing the runaways and how the Underground Railroad had helped so many get to Canada. The say ...more
Amy Lynch
Sep 13, 2016 Amy Lynch rated it really liked it
Beautifully "painted" illustrations rich with expression. This book holds much anticipation and teaches the reader to listen to the world around them to find their way.
Alex Hobart
Book Level: 3.8
Summary - Sweet Clara lived during a time when she had no choice but to work on a plantation at the age of twelve. She had to leave her mother, and work in the fields every day. She learned how to sew and was moved into the main house where she learned of places like the North where she could be free and the Underground Railroad, how she could get there. Clara decided to create a map by making a quilt of the extra scraps and stitch a map of how to get to the North, to freedom.
Alex Gagliano
Jul 26, 2016 Alex Gagliano rated it it was amazing
This historical fiction children's book is about Clara, a slave who wants to reunite with her mother who lives on a different plantation. She has hope and dreams of escaping and becoming free. She is a great seamstress and begins quilting a map that leads to freedom out of a quilt. After that, she decides to follow her own trail and escape. She found her mother and embraced her. Her quilt was left for others to use as an inspiration for freedom. This is a great mentor text when talking about sla ...more
Theresa C
Nov 06, 2010 Theresa C rated it it was amazing

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt-picture book historical fiction
Hopkinson, Deborah Alfred A. Knopf c1993 ISBN 0-679-8747-2-0
This is a wonderful story to read aloud to children as the rich and colorful paintings greatly enhance the story. The book is a treasure trove of information and activities. The story is riveting as Clara, a slave and seamstress on Home Plantation discovers a way to piece together scraps of cloth with bits of information gathered from other slaves about the way to freedom.
Lana Hoffman
Nov 22, 2008 Lana Hoffman rated it it was amazing
"A young slave stiches a quilt with a map pattern which guides her to freedom in the North."
Overall, Clara is a great role model and children can learn a lot about good character from reading her story. As I read I began to care about Clara and I wanted her to escape to freedom with her family.
Specifically, the cover of this book invites the reader into the story. The end pages are clevery done and give the reader a more detailed look at the quilt. The author gives this book a happy ending,
Mar 08, 2015 Mike rated it really liked it
Clara was born into slavery and separated form her mother. She vows to find her mother one day in spite of the odds against that. In her time spent as a slave Clara learns how to sew and leaves working in the fields to working as a seamstress. She is privy to a lot of conversations in the room where she works and these very conversations inspire her to run away to freedom. She devises a plan and begins making a map of a path to slavery. She gathers information from other slaves and uses the deta ...more
Morgan Groth
Jan 28, 2015 Morgan Groth rated it liked it
Literary Elements: dialect- the book uses old southern speech; the climax is when she starts the map quilt and how everyone tries to help her; the mood starts out being sad because Clara has to leave her mother but when she starts working as a seamstress, the mood becomes more positive and expectant with what she's going to do to get back to her mother. I would split this book up to read in two days since it is quite lengthy and use it to introduce a unit on slavery. This would be targeted for f ...more
Kathy Roderer
Sep 26, 2009 Kathy Roderer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Clara, separated from her mother, is a young field hand being raised by her aunt, who teaches her to sew in order to get her a position in the “big house.” Clara reluctantly works hard to become the best seamstress she can. Eventually, she learns that her talent is useful for another reason: map making. Using information she is told and overhears from others, she uses her stitchery to make a quilt map of the path to Canada and freedom. This would be a great read aloud book to accompany a unit on ...more
Rosa Cline
Dec 06, 2014 Rosa Cline rated it really liked it
This was a child's book but it touched my heart, I don't know if I could read it outloud to my children without crying.

A young girl is separated from her Momma to be a cotton picker-field worker. But the older woman slave started caring for her and eventually taught her to sew, being patient with her due to her sore swollen hands. She eventually was able to get Clara into the 'Big House' as a seamstress. As Clara listened to all the coming and goings she picked up on what the Underground Railro
Megan Goss
Oct 26, 2010 Megan Goss rated it it was amazing
The front cover is inviting because the two people look like they are running towards you with smiles on their faces. Green and yellow are the colors that stand out the most making it look bright and cheery. The land in the background foreshadows the idea of the story (making a quilt into a map) because the land looks like it is patched together. The end pages are narrative because it shows the quilt and it appears as a map (houses, land, rivers). The story is told by a young slave named Clara ( ...more
Apr 24, 2012 Lexi.vernaglia rated it liked it
This is a book about slaves and a young girls dream to be free. Clara is a young girl who got moved away from her mother to a different plantation. Here she became friends with Jack and Rachel became her aunt. She watched over and took care of Clara. One night Rachel decided to teach Clara how to sew. Clara ended up working in the house with Rachel as a seamstress. Clara over heard men talking about how close their plantation was to freedom, and learned what a map was. So, Clara decided to sew a ...more
The book's storyline keeps the reader's interest, and the characterization is quite deep for a relatively short book. Clara is both dynamic and round. The illustrations are very bright and hopeful throughout the book, which helps to offset some of the sadness of the story towards the beginning. On the other hand, it does make it look as though heading North was fairly easy. The only real problem with the book is the lack of peritext. I found myself wondering how much of the story was based on fa ...more
Brooke Mullins
Oct 23, 2012 Brooke Mullins rated it really liked it
Shelves: reading-4050
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt is about a young girl, Sweet Clara, who was taken from her mother at age 11 and sold into slavery. In her determination to find her mother and esacpe this nightmare, Sweet Clara learns how to sew to make a quilt depicting a map to freedom and the Underground Railroad.

This is a historical fiction book so the story is probably very unreal; however, many content areas lack incorporation of literature. This book would be a great story to read when introducing the U
Oct 17, 2014 Nisha rated it liked it
Shelves: october-2014
Sweet Clara decides to use extra scraps of fabric to create a map- on a quilt. The map gets her- and, eventually, many others- to freedom.
I really liked the story, but I didn't like the style of speaking used.

This was a good passage:

I can still see Aunt Rachel sitting up in her bed. She just shook her head before I could say a word. "Before you go, just cover me up with your quilt, Sweet
Clara," she say. "I'm too old to walk, but I'm not too old to dream. And maybe I can
help others follow the
Feb 09, 2016 Jana rated it it was amazing
I shared this book with my fifth grade students today. The book tells the story of a young slave girl who's been separated from her mother. She's sent to a new plantation. At first she works as a field hand. But as it was such exhausting work for such a young girl, she got the chance to learn how to sew. Once she became a seamstress in the master's house, she learned how to make patchwork quilts. As she quilted, she couldn't help noticing that the shapes and patterns in the quilt matched those s ...more
Felishaa ' Mariee
Jun 02, 2010 Felishaa ' Mariee rated it it was amazing
Clara was a slave but than had turned into a seamstress in the big house on home plantation.Slavery has separated her from her mother,and she dreams that one daythey will be reunited.

Walking home from the big house one evening,Clara's Aunt Rachel points to the North Star and tells her about Canada,the free land in the north.She also tells her about the underground railroad-a group of people who help slaves eacape to freedom.

When Clara learn's about the route to canada she begins working on a spe
This absolutely beautiful book, written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by James Ransome, is just what I needed to share with my 5th graders to complement their unit on the Civil War. It also gave me a chance to discuss historical fiction, the use of dialect, and descriptive language. The story led to some great discussion about slavery and plantation hierarchy as 12-year-old Clara's story brings history to life. I plan to follow this one up with the shorter story, Under the Quilt of Night, ...more
Tita Kontodiakos
Nov 20, 2012 Tita Kontodiakos rated it really liked it
- Grade/Interest Level: 5th
- Reading Level: 4th
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Main characters: Clara
- Setting: House during time of Underground Era
- POV: 1st
Summary: This story is told through the perspective of a young girl who is working as a seamstress in the big house and is growing curious of freedom and the Underground Railroad. Clara makes a quilt that is a map to freedom by overhearing others talk in the kitchen. With this quilt, she leads herself and many others to freedom.
Theme: Th
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Follow the Drinking Gourd
  • Almost to Freedom
  • Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky
  • The Drinking Gourd: A Story of the Underground Railroad
  • Nettie's Trip South
  • January's Sparrow
  • Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom
  • If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad
  • Freedom River
  • Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman
  • Uncle Jed's Barbershop
  • The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom
  • Goin' Someplace Special (Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner)
  • The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark
  • Show Way
  • When Jessie Came Across the Sea
  • A Sweet Smell of Roses
  • I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery
I write picture books, nonfiction, and middle grade fiction. I love history and visiting schools to talk to young readers.

TITANIC: VOICES FROM THE DISASTER was named a 2013 Sibert Honor Book and a 2013 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist. My most recent nonfiction title, COURAGE & DEFIANCE, Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in WWII Denmark,was named an Orbis Pictus Recommended Bo
More about Deborah Hopkinson...

Share This Book