Written in first person and in dialect, the story is told from the
point of view of a rag doll named Sally.
Miz Rachel and
her daughter, Lindy, are enslaved on a Virginia plantation. Sally
provides comfort to Lindy as the girl toils in the cotton fields
and is whipped by the overseer. One night, Miz Rachel and Lindy
escape, beginning the trip north to freedom along the Underground
Railroad. At one safe house, Sally slips from Lindy's waist and
is left alone. Some time later, a new girl named Willa hides in
the house, finding the doll that she calls Belinda. Once again the
rag doll provides comfort to a little girl.
This book of historical fiction includes an Author's Note explaining
the history of the Underground Railroad.
Set the Stage
Begin a discussion of the Underground Railroad, which functioned
primarily from 1830-1861. Explain that it was a network of secret
stops that helped the enslaved in the slave states escape to freedom.
Lead a discussion of the book with these questions:
How did Sally provide comfort to Lindy, and then, to Willa?
Why do you think the author chose to tell Sally's story using
How is this book different from others you've read about
the Underground Railroad?
How does the artwork contribute to your understanding of
This reproducible for students will help them check their understanding
of the sequence of events from the story.
and Copy the Classroom Activity Now (PDF)
To extend students' enjoyment of the book, try these:
- From Start
to End: Make a timeline of the events in the doll's life.
- Make a
Quilt: Have each student draw a picture about the Underground
Railroad. Stitch the illustrations into a class quilt and display
on a bulletin board with a caption.
- Read a
Biography: Read aloud a book on Harriet Tubman. Discuss Tubman's
role as a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad.
to Music: Play a recording of the Negro spiritual Swing
Low, Sweet Chariot. Discuss the song's significance to the
- Change Narrator: Ask volunteers to retell the story from
the point of view of Lindy.
by Dr. Susan Shafer
Dr. Susan Shafer is a former elementary school teacher with more
than twenty years of classroom experience and a doctorate in education
from Teachers College, Columbia University. While teaching she received
special recognition for her innovative, theme-based teaching methods.
The author of two books for children and numerous articles for adults,
Susan is presently a freelance writer, editor, and educational consultant.