Hush Harbor

Praying in Secret

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

In the early nineteenth century, enslaved Africans are not allowed to gather together in groups. For Simmy and his family, that means they must worship in secret. If they are caught, the punishment will be terrible. Simmy’s job is to watch for danger while the others pray and sing as the Spirit moves them. Will he be able to keep the hush harbor safe?

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Interest Level Kindergarten - Grade 3
Reading Level Grade 2
Genre Picture Books, Social Studies
Category Diverse Books: Race & Ethnicity, Diversity
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Books ®
Language English
Publication Date 2008-08-01
Reading Counts! Level 2.8
Reading Counts! Points 2.0
Text Type Fiction—Historical
BISACS JUV011010, JUV016200
Dewey [E]
Lexile 600
Guided Reading Level T
ATOS Reading Level 4.7
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 123224
Accelerated Reader® Points 0.5
Features Author/Illustrator note, Awards, and Reviewed

Author: Freddi Williams Evans

Freddi Williams Evans enjoys writing historical fiction for young readers that feature African American characters and stories. Her books are A Bus of Our Own, The Battle of New Orleans: The Drummer's Story, and Hush Harbor: Praying in Secret. Freddi's work for general audiences has appeared in local newspapers, The Storytelling Classroom, and poetry anthologies including From a Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets and Kente Cloth: Southwest Voices of the African Diaspora. Her history book on Congo Square, a historic cultural landmark in New Orleans, written for general audiences, will be published in the fall of 2010. Freddi, a native of Madison, Mississippi, holds degrees in music and psychology from Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi, and a graduate degree in creative arts therapy (music) from Hahnemann University, Philadephia, Pennsylvania. She has worked with children of all ages and exceptionalities in various public and private settings as a music therapist, arts educator, and arts administrator. In addition to coordinating a public school arts education program, Freddi works as an independent arts education consultant and conducts author visits. She resides in New Orleans.

Illustrator: Erin Bennett Banks

Native to upstate New York, Erin Bennett Banks is a nationally published illustrator whose children's books have gained wide appeal for her use of rich oils, vibrant colors, and African-themed stories. Banks has illustrated children's books for Candlewick Press, August House, and Carolrhoda Books/Lerner, earning recognition as one of New York Times' Best Children's Books 2005, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, 2006 National Parenting Publications Awards and the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Outstanding Book Awards. Her illustrations have been reviewed in Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, The Washington Post, and Parents Magazine. Additional clients include Harvard Business Review, Focus on the Family, and The Weekly Reader, with vendors ranging from JCPenney to Bed, Bath & Beyond. Banks holds an MFA in illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design and BA in studio art from Houghton College, NY. She lives in Charleston, SC with husband, illustrator Timothy Banks and pugs Fiona and Grace.


  • Booklist Top 10 Religion and Spirituality Books for Youth, Winner, 2010
  • SSLI Book Award Best Book, Winner, 2008



“Illustrated with extremely stylized pictures that don’t prettify their subjects, this captures some of the fear and horror associated with slavery. However, it’s the detailed author’s note that will really give kids insight into the subject. A good choice for both religion and history shelves.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Banks’s oversized, almost muralistic figures reflect the strength of the Africans’ spirits and their tremendous physicality. The red outlines used throughout evoke both warmth and danger as the characters steal away to their meeting place. Evans handles the issue with clarity, understanding and pride, briefly touching upon Africans’ attempts to escape the slavery system. The author’s note provides additional information for interested readers. This is a fine addition to any collection.”
Kirkus Reviews

School Library Journal

“Banks’s highly stylized paintings are wonderfully expressive and amplify the deep emotion of the situation. Her palette of yellows and browns shows people who are swathed in moonlight yet avoids the dimness that night scenes sometimes have. An extensive author’s note outlines African religion from the arrival of slaves in America to the founding of the First African Baptist Church.”
School Library Journal