The Escape of Oney Judge
Martha Washington's Slave Finds Freedom
By Emily Arnold McCully
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), Hardcover, 9780374322250, 32pp.)
Publication Date: January 23, 2007
When General George Washington is elected the first President of the United States, his wife chooses young Oney Judge, a house slave who works as a seamstress at Mount Vernon, to travel with her to the nation’s capital in New York City as her personal maid. When the capital is moved to Philadelphia, the Washingtons and Oney move, too, and there Oney meets free blacks for the first time. At first Oney can’t imagine being free – she depends on the Washingtons for food, warmth, and clothing. But then Mrs. Washington tells Oney that after her death she will be sent to live with Mrs. Washington’s granddaughter. Oney is horrified because she knows it is likely that she will then be sold to a stranger – the worst fate she can imagine. Oney realizes she must run. One day she sees an opportunity and takes it, ending up in New Hampshire, where she lives the rest of her life, poor but free.
Pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations bring to life this picture book biography of Oney Judge, a young woman who, in the end, has no mistress but herself. The Escape of Oney Judge is a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
EMILY ARNOLD MCCULLY has written and illustrated many children's books, including Mirette on the High Wire, a Caldecott Medal Book, Marvelous Mattie, and Squirrel and John Muir, an NCSS-CBC Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies. She divides her time between New York City and upstate New York.
"McCully, at the top of her game, takes a rather sophisticated piece of history and writes it in a way that will draw children. Fascinating." --Starred, Booklist "Straightforward and unapologetic in delivery, this offering stands as a noteworthy effort to add complexity to the mythology surrounding the country's first president. . . . Gutsy--and very nicely done." --Starred, Kirkus Reviews
"A nuanced presentation of what the early days of liberty looked like to those whose liberty was restricted." --Chicago Tribune
"The watercolor paintings, often circular cameos on the page, along with the text, create a good sense of household life and the rising issues of slavery in these early days of the new republic."--School Library Journal "Sentence after sentence . . . cut[s] like the flick of a whip." --The Washington Post Book World