Almost to Freedom

  • Interest Level: Kindergarten - Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

Lindy and her doll Sally are best friends – wherever Lindy goes, Sally stays right by her side. They eat together, sleep together, and even pick cotton together. So, on the night Lindy and her mama run away in search of freedom, Sally goes too. This young girl’s rag doll vividly narrates her enslaved family’s courageous escape through the Underground Railroad. At once heart-wrenching and uplifting, this story about friendship and the strength of the human spirit will touch the lives of all readers long after the journey has ended.

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Interest Level Kindergarten - Grade 3
Reading Level Grade 2
Genre Picture Books, Social Studies
Category Diverse Books: #OwnVoices, Diverse Books: Race & Ethnicity, Diverse Books: Social Justice, Diversity
Copyright 2003
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Books ®
Language English
Number of Pages 40
Publication Date 2003-08-01
Reading Counts! Level 2.9
Text Type Fiction—Historical
BISACS JUV016200, JUV039120, JUV040000
Dewey [Fic]
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 9.25 x 11
Lexile 530
Guided Reading Level R
ATOS Reading Level 4.4
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 74442
Accelerated Reader® Points 0.5
Features Awards and Reviewed

Author: Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson is the author of The Book Itch, as well as three Coretta Scott King Award-winning books: No Crystal Stair, Bad News for Outlaws, and Almost to Freedom. She is a former youth services librarian in New Mexico. Visit her online at

Illustrator: Colin Bootman

Colin Bootman is the award-winning illustrator of many books for children, including Young Frederick Douglass, Almost to Freedom, and The Steel Pan Man of Harlem—which he also wrote. He and his books have received numerous awards, including the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, the Schneider Family Book Award, and the Teacher’s Choice Award. Born in Trinidad, Mr. Bootman came to the United States at the age of seven and found that art helped him cope with his new environment. Once a young artist himself, Mr. Bootman hopes his art can encourage children to follow their dreams and embrace their passions.


  • Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year, Winner, 2003
  • Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, Commended, 2003



“The doll’s narrative and Bootman’s dark, dramatic paintings bring close the child’s daily experience: the cruel seperation and physical punishment, and then the adventure of running away and hiding. . . a powerful way to express the sorrow of loving families torn apart. Bootman’s stirring portraits. . . show that the small rag doll bears witness to historical events of cruelty and courage.”

Publishers Weekly

“Through Sally’s perceptive eyes, readers catch a hard-hitting glimpse of slave life. . . A captivating account of escape via the Underground Railroad includes many suspenseful moments. . . Nelson’s writing is immediate and often lyrical. Yet it is Bootman’s realistic paintings, distinctive for their skillful use of light and darkness, that best convey the story’s pathos and urgency.”
Publishers Weekly

School Library Journal

“A compelling story told from the point of view of an enslaved child’s beloved rag doll. This accessible story. . . makes its impact without frightening or overwhelming readers. It is ultimately a story of hope and resilience, love and friendship. The evocative oil paintings are expertly rendered and effectively convey the powerful emotions of the tale.”
School Library Journal