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

Night Boat to Freedom

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  148 ratings  ·  48 reviews
When Granny Judith asks twelve-year-old Christmas John to row Molly, cook’s daughter, across the river from Kentucky to the Free State of Ohio, he’s terrified. Bravely, he begins the first of many journeys. Each time he returns, Granny Judith asks what color clothing his passenger wore, for she’s had a dream-vision and is making a quilt from squares of these “freedom color ...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
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 Night Boat to Freedom, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Night Boat to Freedom

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.34  · 
Rating details
 ·  148 ratings  ·  48 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Night Boat to Freedom
Margaret Boling
May 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
5/19/2011 ** I'm currently doing a unit on the Underground Railroad with my fourth graders and chose to read this aloud today. As I read, I heard the sound of fingers rubbing the illustrations, which are so realistic, you believe you can feel the bark and the murk of the fog. My kids were equally spellbound by the story, totally caught up in characters' lives and wondering if Christmas John was a real person. Named Christmas John because he was born on Christmas Day, the main character began row ...more
Katie Grasher
Apr 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really did like this book. It was short but it gone down to the point. It talked about multiple different aspects of the slave life starting out with how the grandma got caught and how hard it was to not get caught when they were transporting people back and forth across the river. It was very powerful in the sense that at any moment the kid could get caught and he knew that and made that known in the dialogue so you were almost on the edge of your seat the whole time as well. The plot was ric ...more
Kayla Boerner
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is set in the time when slavery was common. In this story, Christmas John has to take Molly across the river to Ohio, a free state. This journey is very dangerous and could be detrimental to both of them if they get caught. I think this book is a great piece of diverse literature. It could be used to inform kids about how our world used to be. Many children come to school with no prior knowledge on slavery so I think it is very important that we have good books that we can use to talk ...more
Krysta McFarland
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This historical fiction book is good for grades 3-5 and has a truthful way of telling the story of slavery to younger readers. This book provided me a different way to view the tragedy of slavery and what it may have been like for those put through this hardship. While this book discusses hardships it also showed me aside of hope that I personally feel that a lot of books leave out. It is because of this glimpse of hope that was peaking through that I would probably use this book over another on ...more
Jordan Pierre
This is such a strong story about escaping slavery. You are on edge the whole time as Christmas John tries to help slave after slave escape across the river to freedom. It is as if you are scared for him that he might just get caught one time. It is one of those books that keeps you wanting more. You want to change the page quickly to find out what is going to happen.
Melani Moore
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love the role the quilt has in this book. I also like that the story began pre-slavery since I want my children to remember the long history of blacks that has nothing to do with slavery or civil rights. The ending was superb.
Hayley Murray-Alvarado
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Historical Fiction 2006
This was a powerful book about escaping slavery. The young boy has a very important job. I would read this book aloud to my students to inform them about slavery.
Manuela Brunetti
Apr 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Very well written.
Apr 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful, and it nearly brought tears to my eyes.
Chelsey Stotler
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Night Boat to Freedom is a combination of several recordings of slaves’ journeys to freedom. The story takes place in Kentucky where Christmas John and his grandma Judith live. The house that they live in is close to the river that leads to Ohio, which is a free state. Grandma Judith had raises John since he was a baby and continues to be a hard workingwoman under the power of her master. Grandma Judith works with dye pots, boiling and stirring up thread to weave clothing. Each dye pot holds its ...more
Jennifer Walizer
Night Boat to Freedom by Margot Theis Raven begins with Christmas John’s grandmother sending him on a mission to take Molly to a location for escaping slaves. He took Molly across the water to the location and then he realized that he enjoyed helping others cross the river. Christmas began doing this for many more people. Every night his grandma asks, “What is the color of freedom?” and the answer would be whatever color that person was wearing that night. Each answer was sewn into a qui
Jaclyn Giordano
Feb 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Night Boat to Freedom by Margot Theis Raven is a picture book intended for readers in grades two through six. I gave it four stars. Christmas John, an eleven-year old boy, and his Granny Judith, are two slaves who bravely help many others escape across the river from Kentucky to Ohio. Every night, Christmas John rows a boat and takes slaves across the river to freedom as Granny Judith sews a patch of the quilt for every color of freedom that escapes. It was the red cloth that lured her to slave ...more
Kelli Carlson
Dec 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Night Boat to freedom By Margrot Theis Reaven, illustrated by E. B. Lewis is an excellent book! The book is about a young African American slave named Christmas and his grandmother named Granny Judith. The story took place in Kentucky where slavery was still prevalent however right across the river in Ohio slavery was banned. Christmas recalls that he could see Ohio right across the river from his plantation. Christmas was raised as a baby by his Granny Judith who worked long hard days and spent ...more
Nov 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

From Booklist
*Starred Review* The team who created Circle Unbroken (2004) once again brings African American history close. Drawing on accounts in the Slave Narrative Collection, compiled during the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers' Project, Raven presents her story from the viewpoint of Christmas John, 12, born on Christmas morning and raised on a Kentucky plantation by Granny Judith, who was captured as a child in Africa. One night Granny Judith asks him to row a young slave across the riv
Alex Daniels
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Night Boat to Freedom is a beautifully written and illustrated picture book. The two main characters, Granny Judith, and Christmas John were based off of two different first person accounts. Their stories were woven together in Night Boat to Freedom. Granny Judith was captured into slavery by being teased with red cloth. She was so attracted to color, that when she became a slave she used her artistic abilities to dye and weave plant materials into clothing and blankets. Her love of color is ref ...more
Jul 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book won First Place in the Carter G. Woodson Book Award, National Council for the Social 
Studies and The Martin Luther King Living the Dream Award; Fielder Freedom Award, among other honors.
It is a story whose roots lie in interviews recorded with former slaves by the WPA writer’s project during the Great Depression. It is about two slaves in Kentucky, a grandmother and her grandson, born on Christmas morning, and named Christmas. She quilts squares based on colors worn by those who esc
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
This award-winning book is about a young boy, Christmas John, who was born into slavery. His grandma, Granny Judith spends her time dying, boiling, and stirring up hanks of thread. When Granny Judith explained that they had the opportunity to learn the “color of freedom” Christmas John was nervous and scared, because that required him to row a boat and take the other slaves to freedom. As a reader I had to read through it twice before I was able to grasp the entire story. The author was able to ...more
Amy Baric
Christmas John is a 12 year old slave living in Kentucky. Risking his life, he begins to row people across the river to Ohio and then returns to his life of slavery. While he rows people across, his grandma sits in her cottage and sews a quilt. One night, his grandma prompts him to free himself. She presents him with the “freedom quilt” and urges him to leave without her. However, he goes back for her and offers her the freedom that she always inspired him to give others.
Not only does this bo
Jun 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Christmas John is a slave in Kentucky. Under the cover of night, Christmas takes slaves across the river to freedom in Ohio. He tells his grandmother, Granny Judith, what people wear when they make it to freedom so that she can complete her freedom quilt. She makes Christmas a red shirt to wear when he crosses the river to freedom. Together, they cross the river with dogs and slave trackers on their back. The story is weaved together from two stories found in the Slave Narratives housed at the L ...more
Feb 26, 2014 added it
My teacher read this book to us (because we are learning about slavery) and I thought it was a great book. It is about a boy who takes people across the Ohio river so that they can reach freedom. Each time that he gets a person across he asks them what color they are wearing. He then tells his grandmother what colors they had worn and she dyes cloth of that color for each person that crosses. When two patches are left it is time for them to leave. Read this book if you would like to see if they ...more
May 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Powerful, moving story of a boy, Christmas John, and his grandmother as they worked the Underground Railroad, carrying slaves across the river to freedom, at great risk to themselves. The bond between the boy and his grandmother is poignant, and the illustrations are stunning. My children very much enjoyed the story, and it generated many questions and good conversation after we read it together.
Based on actual slave narratives, this is a hauntingly gorgeous picture book of the Underground Railroad. Christmas John is a 12 year old slave boy who courageously paddles slaves to freedom across the river from Kentucky to Ohio. He lives with Granny Judith, an elderly woman who creates beautiful quilts and dreams of freedom through the colors she creates. A lovely book, with several layers, and a powerful story.

Briana Nelson
Christmas John is a slave who lives in Kentucky. However, in Ohio, Blacks are free, so Christmas takes slaves across the river to freedom in Ohio. He tells his grandmother, Granny Judith, what people wear when they make it to freedom so that she can complete her freedom quilt. She makes Christmas a red shirt to wear when he crosses the river to freedom. Together, both of them cross the river with dogs and slave trackers on their back.
Nov 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Based on the true stories of slaves traveling on The Underground Railroad, Night Boat to Freedom is just that...a boat piloted by Christmas John to takes runaway slaves from Kentucky across the river to Ohio and freedom. When Granny Judith feels the danger is too great, she tells Christmas John that, he too, must find a way to freedom. But, his heart will not let him leave her behind.
Mar 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This children's book is fabulous. The art and content are beautiful. We read this in our home during Black History month when my daughter and her class finished a wonderful photostory about influencial people in Black History. This story is very touching and I recommend it for ages 6 and above. You will have a greater appreciation for what people go through for freedom. ...more
Jan 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
appreciated how the author wove together true stories from slave narrative collection to create this touching tale about a boy, his grandmother, and fellow slaves "boating to freedom." love the watercolored illustrations. moved by the repeated line: "what scares the mind is best done with the heart." ...more
Apr 28, 2011 rated it liked it
A moving story about a grandmother and grandson who help slaves escape to freedom. (There is no violence, but there is mention of "the overseer layin' the rawhide on my back" and he is chased by dogs -- but not caught.) A composite based on stories from the Slave Narrative Collection (described in the back of the book). ...more
Kaitlyn Horvath
Oct 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. I think kids will understand slavery a lot more with this book since it's written in a child's perspective. It really shows how life was during slavery and shows the struggles that young kids had to go through on a daily basis. I feel that i would use this book in my class when discussing slavery. I like how it shows how courageous the boy was. ...more
Jan 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kid-s-books
A nice story about a woman who was lured by slavers landing in Africa by a bright red cloth that fascinated her. She teaches her grandson her story and while slaves in the American South, The grandson is able to think of a way to escape into Ohio with his grandmother in tow.
Feb 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
The beautiful illustrations in this story are what makes it for me. Gorgeous, rich and perfectly expressing both the hope and fear depicted in the story. This is a picture book for older children and adults and definitely worth a look!
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Cut
  • Midnight Sun (Twilight, #5)
  • The Road to Paris
  • Ohana Means Family
  • Provence to Die for (Murder, She Wrote, #17)
  • Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O'Hara
  • The Birdman
  • Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks
  • Parvana's Journey (The Breadwinner, #2)
  • Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters, #1)
  • Mrs. Crump's Cat
  • Badd Kitty (Badd Brothers, #9)
  • Alias Grace
  • Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story
  • Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters, #2)
  • One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference
  • Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam
  • Emma's Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty
See similar books…

Related Articles

The Great Migration was the movement of six million African Americans out of the South to urban areas in the Northeast, Midwest, and West between...
45 likes · 4 comments