Review: ‘Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor’
When I was in fourth grade (and again in 5th grade), we had to read a biography and then dress up as the person we read about it to present it to the class. I remember this project well, because I dressed up as Eleanor Roosevelt for two years straight. (I also did my science fair experiment on the brain two years straight. I was the master of repurposing my work for many teachers throughout my school career.) But I also remember one of my classmates dressing up as Harriet Tubman and presenting her story. It stood out in my mind. I’m pretty sure it was one of the first times I ever heard of Harriet Tubman.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor
By Nathan Hale
Amulet Books, $12.95
Grades 4 and up
In the latest installment of the Hazardous Tales series, Hale introduces an icon of American history: Harriet Tubman, who was born a slave named Araminta. Tired of the harsh treatment and the constant threat of being sold, she escapes from slavery. Once she escapes, she changes her name to Harriet Tubman and returns to take many others to freedom. The road back was fraught with danger, and Harriet risked being forced back into slavery or worse, but despite this she makes the trip many times.
This is probably one of my favorite Hazardous Tales. Nathan Hale (the author/artist not the character) captures the bravery of Tubman and the horrors of slavery. He also includes details I’d never learned before, like how Tubman actually fought in the Civil War. Hale builds the story at a steady pace, keeping the momentum going until its happy conclusion. (Tubman actually lives to see the slaves freed, and though we all know it wasn’t entirely happy, I imagine that time was filled with much hope.)
Hale tells his story through hues of purple, grey, and white. The choice of purple allows for an ominous tone as danger builds and softer tones as the family shares a few happy moments. While Hale doesn’t get entirely gruesome, he doesn’t spare the horrors of slavery and the horrible treatment of the slaves at the hands of cruel white masters.
Whether the reader just likes a good nonfiction tale or a teacher wants to introduce her students to an icon of American history, this is an excellent read. Don’t wait until the school year to pick this one up though. And I can’t wait to see what’s up next in the Hazardous Tale series.
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.
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