Booklist Reviews

An exciting Underground Railroad escape is detailed in this handsome picture book, framed by the title's message of community and connection. A former slave takes his small granddaughter to his apple orchard, and when she asks how come he waves "hello" to everyone, he answers that he knows them not by name, but by heart. He talks to her of slavery times, when he carried apple seeds in his pocket and dreamed of planting them in his own soil. Then he escaped with his wife and baby (the grandchild's mama), and he describes how a brave white man, Quaker James Stanton, helped them cross the Ohio River to freedom. Pinkney's watercolor double-paged spreads contrast the sepia-toned gloom of slavery and hiding with the abundant light-filled apple orchard today. Final notes explain the story's roots in the life of Orleans Finger, who told his story as part of the Federal Writers' Project in 1937. Caught by the action, children will hear Finger's shining words across time, race, and generations. ((Reviewed May 1, 2007)) Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews

An elderly man tells his granddaughter the story of his escape from slavery and explains why his apple orchard is a symbol of the help he received from strangers. Pinkney's expansive illustrations effectively portray the dark days of slavery and contrast them to the sunny pink of the apple orchard and freedom. The book was inspired by a true story. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews

In this moving testimonial, an old man eloquently recalls escaping from slavery with a few apple seeds in his pocket, as he and his young granddaughter stroll out to the lushly flowering orchard that has since grown from them. To the child's question about why he waves to everyone they meet, Gran'pa utters the title line, and then explains how his journey to freedom—undertaken with his wife, their baby and unlooked-for help from members of the Underground Railroad—led him to feel that way ever since he and his family "got through." "I been on both sides. When somebody falls down, what kind of man gonna stop 'n' say: ‘I don't pick up no stranger! Let 'em lie there'? Leastways, not me!" Painting in an impressionistic vein and expertly capturing the couple's intimacy, Pinkney alternates brightly colored, semi-rural scenes with flashbacks in dark browns and grays, then closes with a tender caress awash in pink blossoms. The title is actually a quote, and though here it's taken out of context and, in the author's note, incorrectly attributed to a man, it makes a powerful statement across racial lines, nationalities and generations. (Picture book. 7-9) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

This resonant, moving story spotlights both the loving rapport between a girl and her grandfather, and the story of his family's escape to freedom. Grifalconi's (The Village of Round and Square Houses ) narrator recalls accompanying her grandfather on a visit to his apple orchard. As the fellow waves hello to every passerby, the youngster asks how he knows so many people. He replies, "Don't know 'em by name—just by heart, Honey.... Ain't nobody a stranger to me! " And to her question, "Why's that, Gran'pa?" he responds, " 'Cause both me and my heart is free." The tale then travels back to a darker time, and Pinkney's bright palette similarly dims to sepia tones. The grandfather explains that, as a slave, he had carried apple seeds in his pockets that he planned to save for the day he could plant them in his own soil. But one day he realized that that wouldn't happen " 'til we struck out for freedom ourselves!" He and his wife ran away with their baby—the narrator's mother—and escaped across the Ohio River with the help of a member of the Underground Railroad. Pinkney's (The Old African ) shadow-filled paintings depict their harrowing journey, and give way to glorious color as the man and his granddaughter reach his apple orchard in full bloom. The trees' luminous pink hues offer a stunning testimony to the power of those prophetic seeds. In a poignant finale, the girl then plants seeds of her own—a "seed of memory." An inspired collaboration. Ages 5-9. (Apr.)

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School Library Journal Reviews

K-Gr 3 –In this story set in the early 20th century, a young African-American narrator recalls a special moment shared with her grandfather. As the two walk together, Gran'pa greets passersby with warmth and friendliness. The source of his joy, of course, is freedom; that longing and fulfillment are made tangible through his explanation of the apple seeds he carried in his pocket while still a slave–and the orchard he owns now. He relates the story of his escape, with his wife and infant daughter, describing the kindness and safe passage shown to them by a white farmer, a member of the Underground Railroad. Later, as Gran'pa planted each seed in his own soil, he "thought of someone who'd helped us on our way." Pinkney's signature pencil-and-watercolor earth tones serve well for the escape scenes; his palette lightens with an infusion of pink, and his style becomes looser and more impressionistic as the pair peer into the blossoms at the conclusion. Some of the figural renderings are less successful, and particular perspectives necessitate a foreshortening that appears awkward. While this is not the author's or illustrator's strongest effort, educators in schools and churches will find uses for the Good Samaritan lessons presented throughout.–Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library

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