Literature Circles: Our Favorite Books About the Underground Railroad

February’s nonfiction feature “Escape From Slavery” tells the story of the remarkable Harriet Tubman. Her story and that of the Underground Railroad are the subject of many fantastic works of fiction and nonfiction—perfect for literature circles. We’ve compiled some of our favorite books across genres and Lexiles so you can mix and match according to your students' needs and interests.

To get things started, here are some essential questions that connect these books with the article “Escape From Slavery.”

 

Guiding Questions

  • What is it like to live without freedom?
  • Why is it important to learn about slavery?
  • How do people fight oppression?
  • What is the legacy of the Underground Railroad?

 

Check your library for these amazing books:

Trouble Don’t Last by Shelley Pearsall
(novel, 720L)

Samuel searches for freedom and his mother on a journey from Kentucky to Canada that is full of action, heartbreak, and hope.

 

 

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
(novel, 980L)

Elijah is the first child born into freedom in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves just over the border from Detroit, Michigan. Elijah journeys back to America to help a friend trying to buy his family out of captivity in the South.

 

 

Unbound: A Novel in Verse by Ann E. Burg
(novel in verse, 900L)

This novel in verse illuminates the stories of runaway slaves who sought sanctuary in the Great Dismal Swamp, located between North Carolina and Virginia. Native Americans took refuge in this swamp for thousands of years, and today, it is a federal wildlife refuge. Poetry lovers will thank you.

 

 

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave, Written by Himself  by Frederick Douglass
(autobiography, 1040L)

This classic is a Common Core Text Exemplar for grades 6-8, and it's also a great source for excerpts for close reading. 

 

 

Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad by Ann Petry
(informational text, 1000L)

This is another great Common Core Text Exemplar for grades 6-8. It will allow your students to dig deeper into the life of Harriet Tubman.

 

 

True North by Kathryn Lasky
(novel, 780L)

An abolitionist's granddaughter and an escaped slave traveling on the Underground Railroad are the protagonists in this adventure novel. Revolutionaries Robert Gould Shaw, Abigail Adams, and Ralph Waldo Emerson make appearances too. 

 

 

The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale
(graphic novel, GN370L)

The story of freedom fighter Araminta Ross (better known as Harriet Tubman) is told in this graphic novel. Perfect for reluctant readers.

 

 

Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson
(novel, 820L)

This is the third book of the Seeds of America trilogy, which is no doubt already a student favorite. Ashes follows Isabel to the South in the midst of the Revolutionary War where she searches for her enslaved sister.

 

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