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The Underground Railroad: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about the Underground Railroad?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to the Underground Railroad. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about the Underground Railroad.

Our list includes picture books and chapter books. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.

When it comes to children’s stories about the Underground Railroad, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like Under the Quilt of Night to popular sellers like Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad to some of our favorite hidden gems like Before She Was Harriet.

We hope this list of kids books about the Underground Railroad can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book!

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Before She Was Harriet
Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome & illustrated by James E. Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A lush and lyrical biography of Harriet Tubman, written in verse. An evocative poem and opulent watercolors come together to honor a woman of humble origins whose courage and compassion make her larger than life.

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Unspoken
Written & illustrated by Henry Cole
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

In this wordless picture book, a young Southern farm girl discovers a runaway slave hiding behind the corn crib in the barn and decides to help him.

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Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad
Written by & illustrated by Kadir Nelson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist. <p/>Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday – his first day of freedom.

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January's Sparrow
Written & illustrated by Patricia Polacco
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

Patricia Polacco’s most powerful book since <i>Pink and Say.</i><p> In the middle of the night, The Crosswhites?including young Sadie?must flee the Kentucky plantation they work on. Dear January has been beaten and killed by the plantation master, and they fear who may be next. But Sadie must leave behind her most valuable possession, the wooden sparrow carved for her by January. Through the Underground Railroad, the Crosswhites make the slow and arduous journey to Marshall, Michigan, where they finally live in freedom. And there they stay, happily, until the day a mysterious package shows up on their doorsteps. It is January’s sparrow, with a note that reads, ?I found you.?<p> How the Crosswhites, and the whole town of Marshall, face this threat will leave readers empowered and enthralled. This is a Polacco adventure that will live in the minds of children for years. <p/></p></p>

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I Am Harriet Tubman
Written by Brad Meltzer & illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

“A biography of Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist leader who played a key role in helping enslaved people escape via the Underground Railroad.”

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  • The Underground Abductor: An Abolitionist Tale - Meet Underground Railroad abductor Harriet Tubman in this installment of the New York Times bestselling graphic novel series!

  • Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom - This poetic book is a resounding tribute to Tubman’s strength, humility, and devotion. With proper reverence, Weatherford and Nelson do justice to the woman who, long ago, earned over and over the name Moses.

  • Under the Quilt of Night - Award-winning duo Deborah Hopkinson and James E. Ransome combine their talents once more for this sequel to the best-selling <i>Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt.</i> Traveling late one night, a runaway slave girl spies a quilt hanging outside a house. The quilt’s center is a striking deep blue – a sign that the people inside are willing to help her escape. Can she bravely navaigate the complex world of the Underground Railroad and lead her family to freedom?

  • An Apple for Harriet Tubman - Biography of a little slave girl whipped for eating an apple, who later grew up to become a famous “conductor” for the underground railroad.

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Night Boat to Freedom
Written by Margot Theis Raven & illustrated by E. B. Lewis
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

What scares the head is best done with the heart.

When Granny Judith asks twelve-year-old Christmas John to row Molly across the river from Kentucky to the Free State of Ohio, he’s terrified. But Granny Judith reassures him. So Christmas John begins the first of many dangerous journeys. And each passing day brings hope that Granny and John can find their own freedom, just across the river.

Night Boat to Freedom is a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children’s Book of the Year.

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Ann Fights for Freedom: An Underground Railroad Survival Story
Written by Nikki Shannon Smith & illustrated by Alessia Trunfio
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Twelve-year-old Ann understands there is only one thing to be grateful for as a slave: having her family together. But when the master falls into debt, he plans to sell both Ann and her younger brother to two different owners. Ann is convinced her family must run away on the Underground Railroad. Will Ann’s family survive the dangerous trip to their freedom in the North ? This Girls Survive story is supported by a glossary, discussion questions, and nonfiction material on the Underground Railroad, making it a valuable resource for young readers.

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Who Was Harriet Tubman?
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Born a slave in Maryland, Harriet Tubman knew first-hand what it meant to be someone’s property; she was whipped by owners and almost killed by an overseer. It was from other field hands that she first heard about the Underground Railroad which she travelled by herself north to Philadelphia. Throughout her long life (she died at the age of ninety-two) and long after the Civil War brought an end to slavery, this amazing woman was proof of what just one person can do.

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Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter
Written by Nadia L. Hohn & illustrated by Gustavo Mazali
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Learn about the inspiring life of Harriet Tubman in this early reader biography. Harriet Tubman was a brave woman who was born enslaved in Maryland in the 1800s. After risking everything to escape from her slave master and be free, Harriet went on to lead many people to freedom on a journey known today as the Underground Railroad. This book covers some of the amazing aspects of Tubman’s life: She led 13 escapes—all successful and at great personal risk—between 1850 and 1860. This book also covers some of the lesser-known amazing aspects of her life: During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman enlisted African American men to be soldiers. She served as a spy. AND she led a battle under the command of a Union Army colonel! Beginning readers will learn about the milestones in Harriet Tubman’s life in this Level Two I Can Read biography. This biography includes a timeline and historical illustrations all about the life of this inspiring figure, as well as a rare historical photograph of her. Much mythology and conflicting lore exists about Harriet Tubman. This book was carefully vetted by noted Harriet Tubman expert Dr. Kate Larson. Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter is a Level Two I Can Read, geared for kids who read on their own but still need a little help.

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Voices from the Underground Railroad
Written by Kay Winters & illustrated by Larry Day
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Siblings Mattie and Jeb escape slavery via the Underground Railroad, meeting helpful conductors and dodging slave catchers as they travel from Maryland to Massachusetts

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  • River Runs Deep - Twelve-year-old Elias is sent to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky to fight a case of consumption–and ends up fighting for the lives of a secret community of escaped slaves traveling along the Underground Railroad.

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