Title: Most Loved in All the World
Author: Tonya Cherie Hegamin
Illustrator: Cozbi A. Cabrera
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Concepts: child schooling and work, discrimination, human resources, slavery
Review: This charming, but heartbreaking story tells the story of an African-American family, a young mother and her daughter, who are slaves on a plantation. Mama works hard every day, while the little girl, the story's narrator, is too little to do much beyond fetching water. When Mama comes home each night, she works on a quilt. It is full of symbols, as it is the gift Mama gives the little girl when it is time for her to leave the plantation with the Underground Railroad. Mama chooses to stay behind to help others escape in the future, but she wraps her daughter up in the quilt that contains a square of a smiling little girl who is "the most loved in all the world."
The prose contains just enough detail to keep the narrative going without bogging young children down with too much information. However, there is a historical explanation at the end of the book that provides all the background details of the social milieu that inspired the narrative, and parents or teachers might want to use this as a basis for providing more context to the story. Hegamin has an ear for language, and the words jump off the page, sounding completely natural.
The richly colorful illustrations add to the beauty of this book. Many of the book's images of quilts, particularly the inside covers, look so startlingly realistic that readers will be tempted to literally wrap themselves up in this book. The images that help tell the story are more impressionistic, adding to the sense that this could be the story of any family subjugated into slavery.
This book will introduce young children to a dark era in our nation's history, but will also introduce children to inspiring individuals who took a stand for freedom.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children