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Before She Was Harriet

4.52  ·  Rating details ·  1,765 ratings  ·  480 reviews
A picture book biography of Harriet Tubman, written in verse.
We know her today as Harriet Tubman, but in her lifetime she was called by many names. As General Tubman she was a Union spy. As Moses she led hundreds to freedom on the Underground Railroad. As Minty she was a slave whose spirit could not be broken.
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published November 7th 2017 by Holiday House
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Amy Brown Elementary school age children-especially if they have learned about her. My 2nd graders enjoyed this book.

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Average rating 4.52  · 
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 ·  1,765 ratings  ·  480 reviews

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Mariah Roze
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
"A lush and lyrical biography of Harriet Tubman, written in verse and illustrated by an award-winning artist.
We know her today as Harriet Tubman, but in her lifetime she was called by many names. As General Tubman she was a Union spy. As Moses she led hundreds to freedom on the Underground Railroad. As Minty she was a slave whose spirit could not be broken. An evocative poem and opulent watercolors come together to honor a woman of humble origins whose courage and compassion make her larger than
Gorgeous book. I liked the circular nature of the story and the reminder that Harriet Tubman wore many names and roles during her life.
destiny ♡⚔♡ [howling libraries]
Assigned reading for MLIS 7421: Multicultural Youth Literature.

I love children's nonfiction books about important historical figures, because I think it's so important that little ones are taught not only fairytales, but real-life matters and history, too. Harriet is certainly a woman that every children should be taught about and inspired by, and I loved the twist in the sense that this book traces her life backward, before coming full circle 'round to her as a peaceful old woman, basking in th
Jx PinkLady Reviews ♡ bookwormthoughts
I listened to the audio with my children. A biography of Harriet Truman written in verse showing all the roles she played throughout her life and her importance in our historic makeup.
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing

This book honors Tubman’s legacy by beginning with a portrait of her as an old woman and moving backward through time to show what a difference she made as a suffragist, a general, a Union spy, a nurse, a daughter and aunt, a conductor on the underground railroad, and a former slave – a woman

“who dreamed
of living long enough
to one day
be old
stiff and achy
tired and worn and wrinkled
and free.”
Exquisite watercolor illustrations complement an engaging story that allows readers to look back in time on the life journey of Harriet Tubman. I appreciated how the author chose to begin the story near the end of Tubman's life now that she's "tired and worn / her legs stiff / her back achy" (unpaged) after all that she's been through rather than at the beginning. As she reflects on where she's been, readers learn about the many roles she's played throughout her life, and the various names she w ...more
Laura Harrison
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books of 2017. I can't believe I forgot to review it last year :((((( ...more
Featured in a grandma reads session.

Unpeeling the onion on the life of Harriet Tubman, back to the days when she was Araminta, a young slave taught life skills of reading the woods and stars at night by her father that helped her in the years when she would become a conductor of others to their freedom, a Moses among her own, Aunt Harriet, a nurse to those who fought, a spy and a general to a nation who needed her, and even later when some may have thought she was done, a suffragist. This remark
Dec 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
A gorgeous and poetic book about Harriet Tubman, told in a unique narrative style of her life in reverse. Beautiful illustrations. I only refrained from giving it five stars because I wanted MORE. More detail, more information, more everything. But that might be the point. Intrigue kids with the basics of her astounding life, and make them seek out more.
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
There are plenty of picture book biographies of Harriet Tubman, but the Ransomes have created a beautiful and poetic look at her life. Each time the page turns, another part of her life is named and shown. Old woman, suffragist, General Tubman, Union spy, nurse, Aunt Harriet, Moses, Minty, Araminta...each of those aspects led to the old woman who was "worn and wrinkled and free."

While the beautiful watercolors show details of Harriet's world - horse-drawn buggies, ladies in long skirts and wide
I did not expect to be impressed by this book. There have been so many books done about Tubman, some of them fairly recently, that were well done, I couldn't see what was left to say at this time. Well, the book proved me wrong. It is told in a reverse kind of "This is the house that Jack Built" poem. It starts with an old lady sitting on a bench likely waiting for a train to arrive and watching other people around her. It begins " Here she sits/ an old woman/ tired and worn/ her legs still/ her ...more
First of all, the poetic storytelling here...with its pattern of "Before she was...she was" is amazing. It takes us back into Harriet Tubman's life from a very old woman, all the way back to the young girl who was born a slave...It reminds us of Cisneros's onion analogy -- how we are all that 9-year-old, and 8-year-old...Harriet was, in her amazing life, a suffragist, a general, a spy, a nurse, an aunt, a conductor named Moses, she was Minty and Araminta and Harriet.

She was a hero.

The illustrati
Brenda Kahn
This is more of an impressionistic biography but a beautiful one. Sparely written - are they poems? Only a few words on each line and not many on each page and nary a comma or period in sight. But these few words are evocative. The illustrations are gorgeous and powerful double-page spreads that depict Harriet Tubman at various stages of her life. I found the second-to-last spread especially poignant as this one depicts a freed Harriet boarding a train in one car while white passengers board ano ...more
Harriet Tubman was much more than just the conductor on the underground railroad. This talks about all parts of her life and shows that she was just so much more than the one thing we know her for! I love it.
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
I loved the text and art in this one. Another good one for a mentor text.
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fantastic verse-like sparse text and gorgeous illustrations. My only complaint is that it has no author's note or back matter. ...more
A fantastic reverse chronology of Harriet Tubman and who she was before we knew her as we do today.
Elizabeth S
Fascinating backwards look through Harriet Tubman's life. Teaches about her life both before and after her famous Underground Railroad days. What an incredible woman. ...more
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An inspiring story - one I will share with my students this year. Beautifully written.
Phil Jensen
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Justice is served.

Cline-Ransome uses a clever narrative technique (story in reverse) to draw a broad outline of Tubman's many accomplishments. Much like George Washington Carver, Tubman often gets boiled down to a single thing, which does a disservice to her long, productive life.

The prose is sparse but evocative and provides a great starting point for learning about an important historical figure.
Abby Pandina
Nov 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This biography has an average of 4.51 stars, the copyright date is 2017, and the major themes include civil rights, the abolition of slavery, and the civil war within the context of Harriet Tubman's life. My favorite part of this story is how it is told in backwards chronological order. I thought it was really creative, interesting, and inspiring how the author chose to start with Harriet as an old women and work backwards through all that she did in the world. I would absolutely use this story ...more
Nicole Lowe
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Copyright Year:
Theme(s): Biography, Black Americans, Historical Figures

This is a great biographical picture book about an important figure in Black American history. Students may not know who Harriet Tubman was before reading this book but they will be able to learn about her and her history and legacy through this book. This is a good book to use for exploring themes around injustice in American history and how people overcame such injustices.
Wendy Recinos
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wow-books
Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome is a wonderfully written and illustrated biography of Harriet Tubman. The American hero is presented in gorgeous high-quality illustrations made possible through watercolor. This highly awarded book can be read in grade levels 3-5. It tells the story of Harriet through poem-like verses. As a reader, you learn of Harriet's many nicknames she had growing up and her contribution as an abolitionist and activist. General Tubman and her role as a union spy, ...more
Westminster Library
In celebration of Black History Month, I read this wonderful biography on Harriet Tubman. Known for so many roles in history, the beautiful watercolor illustrations bring to life the many faces of Harriet Tubman. Written as a powerful poem, the art and writing give honor to this great American hero. Powerful and outstanding, I learned so much!

Find Before She Was Harriet at the Westminster Public Library today!

And if you are in search of new books to read, try our services, What Do I Read Next. O
Nikki Ibarra
Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Freedom Song: The Story of Henry "Box" Brown by Sally M. Walker

Content area- social studies

Harriet Tubman is about her life and all the roles she played. It describes her roles past what is typically thought of her being the guide for the Underground Railroad. They start from when she is old all the way down to her youth to show how she changed and grew as a person, and how she contributed so greatly to our history.
Freedom song is about a boy who was
First sentence: Here she sits/ an old woman/ tired and worn/ her legs stiff/ her back achy/ but before wrinkles formed/ and her eyes failed/ before she reached/ her twilight years/ she could walk for miles/ and see clearly/ under a sky lit only with stars.

Premise/plot: Before She Was Harriet is a picture book biography of Harriet Tubman written in verse. The picture book opens and closes with Harriet as an old woman. The poem looks backwards on her life. Each section begins with "Before she was.
Apr 20, 2019 added it
Shelves: nonfiction
The twin text I selected for this book is An Apple For Harriet Tubman by Glennette Tilley Turner. For these books, an Interactive Strategy I would use would be Listen-Read-Discuss in conjunction with a Framed Closure activity. As we read the texts, we would stop to discuss important details and jot ideas down on a class chart. At the close of the lesson, students would be teamed up in partners or groups to complete the framed Close activity to summarize their learning. It could look something li ...more
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: info-bios, poetry
This biography in free verse showcases Harriet Tubman and her many roles including a suffragist, Union spy, nurse, and a leader on the Underground Railroad. The powerful use of watercolors display Tubman’s hardships in life through carefully painted wrinkles and facial expressions that compliment her grim yet heroic experiences.

I recommend this for grades 1-3. There are tier 2 and 3 words (injustice, suffragist, liberator) that will need to be introduced and discussed for students to truly unde
Maritsa Vazquez
content area: social studies
Fiction Book: Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper. Published 2015.

Before She Was Harriet is about Harriet Tubman's life and her different roles during different stages of her life. I chose to pair Before She Was Harriet with Juneteenth for Mazie. The book begins with Mazie being upset at being told no. It's too late to play outside, too close to bedtime to have a cookie, and Mazie is too young to stay up late. Her father begins to tell her about her great-great-great
Matthew Hoffart
Content-area crossover: Social Studies/history

Twin text: Unspoken: A Story From the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

Rationale: Harriet Tubman's life story is augmented by Unspoken, a wordless story about a girl who helps a runaway slave hide in a safe house on the Underground Railroad in Virginia. Readers of Unspoken would get a clear idea what it might have been like for Tubman and other slaves as they tried to make their way to freedom, relying on the kindness and help of strangers to stay s
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