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The Drinking Gourd: A Story of the Underground Railroad
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The Drinking Gourd: A Story of the Underground Railroad

(I Can Read: Level 3)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  501 ratings  ·  64 reviews
The stars of the Big Dipper have led a runaway slave family to Deacon Fuller's house, a stop on the Underground Railroad. Will Tommy Fuller be able to hide the runaways from a search party—or will the secret passengers be discovered and their hope for freedom destroyed?

This Level 3 I Can Read book is a captivating first-person historical fiction account of the Underground
Paperback, 64 pages
Published September 7th 1983 by HarperCollins (first published June 9th 1970)
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Average rating 4.04  · 
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 ·  501 ratings  ·  64 reviews

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Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was recommended to me by my 7 year old daughter!

It’s actually a very moving and inspiring historical piece for young readers on the subject of slavery and helping other human beings seek safety and justice.
Mr. Cody
An excellent teaching tool. 1st-3rd grade.
Sherry Scheline
Apr 30, 2020 rated it liked it
It is a beautiful moving story of the Underground Railroad told by a young white child’s perspective. I wish it just had a little more detail.
May 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
DS read this in conjunction with a Harriet Tubman book. This is about a kid who discovers that there are runaway slaves hiding in his barn. It turns out his dad is part of the Underground Railroad, and the boy has stumbled on to the secret.
There is one part where the boy has to lie to keep the runaway slaves safe and hidden, so this may be confusing for really little kids. But it makes for good conversation.

If you are Canadian, you may like this book because it emphasizes that the runaway slave
Feb 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a dramatic account of one family being transported up north to Canada along the Underground Railroad. It is fictional, but tells about the danger the runaways and abolitionists faced as well as the support they received along the way north. We followed along with the book as we listened to the narration on CD. It was narrated much better than I ever could and we loved the song at the beginning of the story - we listened to it several times.
Joshua Lawson
Mar 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great story to help teach kids about the evil of slavery and the moral courage of the men and women who opposed it. I read it to my children, ages 5-8, and they were genuinely engaged by it.
Paxton Bleich
Mar 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: x12-favorites
This is a wonderful historical piece for children. Writing about themes of slavery is difficult especially in a children's book. F.N. Minjo does an incredible job bringing slavery and the Underground Railroad to life. This book is about Tommy Fuller growing up where his parents are a stop of the Underground Railroad. The runaway slave family Jeff, and his family are hidden at Tommy's house. Tommy finds them and is shocked. His dad explains that they are helping Jeff and his family get to Canada ...more
Jordan Chisholm
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book has won no awards

Appropriate grade level(s) are 3rd-4th

This books tells a story about the underground railroad. The story is told by a 10 year old boy fighting for freedom and equality. The boy helps escaped slaves on the underground railroad make their way to freedom.

I thought this book was pretty good. I am not a huge fan of historical fiction, but I have always loved stories like the drinking gourd. This is one of the stories I remember reading in elementary school and that really s
A young boy is sent home early for disrupting church and accidentally finds a runaway slave with his family hiding in the barn hayloft. That night his father takes his son and the family to the next station along the underground railroad explaining along the way why he helps slaves escape to freedom. While the father is out looking for the boat to deliver them, the authorities appear and want to search the hay wagon for a runaway slave and his family. Thinking quickly the young boy then "confess ...more
Amy Meyers
Dec 12, 2018 rated it liked it
I feel a little silly adding this to my record of books this year. It only takes 10 minutes to read, being a book for 2-3rd graders on the Underground Railroad. I didn't realize when I put it in a stack of books I'm reading ahead to know what to assign my kids next year that it was such a young level. I didn't like the boy's lie, but I did like the portrayal of Northerners who hated being caught between their consciences and breaking the law. I think it is a fair portrayal of one of the reasons ...more
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
It surprises me that all the reviews, if not the stars, for this book are good.

This book just seemed unrealistic. Big Jeff, one of the slaves escaping, describes himself as valuable property. His son Little Jeff, talks more like a modern child would when encountering Tommy. It goes something like, What do you mean you don't know about the underground railroad?! About following the drinking gourd?!

Then they just go right out the barn door so Little Jeff can show it to him in the sky. Not worried
K.C. Gardner
Jul 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: childrens, classic
Monjo tells a great story about the Underground Railroad for those just being introduced to history and literature. The story is as authentic as a beginning reader can allow it to be, discussing the fact that the characters broke the law when they helped the slave family and that slavery is wrong. Six chapters and an author’s note round out the book as an offering to historical literature. It is a great introduction to historical information as a story. Discussion can be drawn from the story.
Kaila Daniels
Apr 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: chapter-books
This book I believe is essential to have in my classroom, because it educates students about an extremely impactful event that happened in America's history. They can learn about this event from this book and apply it to how the life and culture has changed for African Americans from that time. I also think it is a very emotional book, so I feel like it would help students create an emotional connection to this event in history. ...more
Apr 16, 2019 rated it liked it
I love reading about the Underground Railroad so it was fun to read this book. The illustrations are alright and I thought I wouldn't like this book, but it surprised me. It starts off in a church and I was confused as to where this is going, but then it got interesting. I recommend for beginner readers! It's a level 3 book so this is good when they can read alone. ...more
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
I love the legend of the Drinking Gourd, but this story, despite being a “classic” is still comes across as racist to me. The story is about a little white boy learning about slavery and how it’s wrong, there is a hood moral in the end, but still it was just an awkward read. There are better books out there to help children learn about American Slavery.
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Big Dipper constellation led slaves North, where they hoped to escape into Canada. When a family of slaves arrives at Deacon Fuller's house (which is a stop on the Underground Railroad) can young Tommy Fuller hide the family from people looking to capture them and take them back? Or will the family's journey to freedom stop short? Read this book for the answers to these and other questions! ...more
Simone Tournemile
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this book with my class in the newspaper and it was a very good book! I always love books about the Underground Railroad but this one was definitely near the top of my list. The characters and their back stories were very interesting.
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this book with my second graders. It was a wonderful way to introduce my students to this part of American history and I'm using it to open an on-going reading section on African American history. Really wonderful teaching tool. ...more
Etta Mcquade
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This nicely illustrative and well-written book for Grades 2 to 4 should help the younger child realize the importance of the Underground Railroad and how individuals took risks to help the slaves escape to Canada.
Historical fiction to learn about history of the black people.
Andy Hickman
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wonderful short story about assisting runaway slaves.
The injustice of slavery and therefore all forms of inequality should be a narrative we continue to remind ourselves about.
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great way to introduce children to the history of the Underground Railroad!
Mar 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A very good book to educate children about the Underground Railroad.
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I find that books written for young readers are shallow, but this one felt like it could actually start conversations about other subjects! I’d recommend this to other teachers.
Jacqueline P.
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
My class really enjoyed hearing this story. It made the journey African Americans took to freedom come to life in a manner that was understandable for second graders.
Tori Williford
Mar 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
After getting in trouble and being sent home from church, Tommy discovers a slave family hiding inside the barn. Tommy’s father is a conductor of the Underground Railroad and is helping this family move to the next station. Tommy accompanies his father to take the slaves and learns a lot in just one night. This historical fiction is great for beginning readers. It provides facts about slavery and this time period through an engaging and interesting story. The text is easy to read so it would mak ...more
Feb 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A story which takes place prior to the Civil War is a touching story of a young boy’s discovery of his father’s secret. Tommy is about ten years old. One Sunday, he and his family are in church. The service is long and Tommy gets restless. He gets in trouble and is sent home by his father. Once home, he goes into the barn and finds out his father has been hiding a very big secret. Tommy uncovers a family of runaway slaves in their barn. His father, Deacon Fuller, is a conductor on the Undergroun ...more
Nov 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: uk-teacher
The Drinking Gourd, by F.N. Monjo, tells the story of Tommy Fuller. Tommy gets into trouble at church, so his father sends him home. While playing in the barn, Tommy finds a slave family hiding there. They are on the run to Canada, with the help of Tommy's father. I really enjoyed this story. It is like a picture book, but it is longer. I like this because the reader can get more information, which is definitely necessary when learning about the Underground Railroad. The illustrations are very d ...more
Nov 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
The genre of this book is historical fiction, and is intended for children (I) ages eight to twelve. This story tells all about the drinking gourd (big dipper) and the underground railroad. It tells of a family who helped slaves hide, and make their way to freedom. It teaches children that this family was breaking the law, but it was the right thing for them to do. This is a great book to use to teach children about slavery and what happened back then. The vocabulary is easy to understand and th ...more
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F.N. Monjo. Ferdinand Nicolas Monjo (1924-1978) was a children's novelist and editor. After graduating from Columbia University, he worked in editorial positions at several major children's publishing companies, including Simon & Schuster's Golden Books and American Heritage's Junior Library.
His grandfather, also named F.N. Monjo, was an Arctic furrier.

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