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Book Review

This biography by Kem Knapp Sawyer is in the "DK Biography" series and is published by DK Publishing.

Harriet Tubman is written for kids ages 9 to 13. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Born a slave, Harriet's biggest fear is that members of her family will be sold and that the family will be permanently separated. After discovering her owner is considering selling her, Harriet runs away with the help of the Underground Railroad. She travels along the Underground Railroad many more times to help family members and other slaves escape and becomes an influential voice in the anti-slavery movement. She later serves as a scout and a nurse for the Union army and opens a home for the elderly. Long after her death in 1913, Harriet continues to receive recognition for her contributions to American history.

Christian Beliefs

Although Harriet is unable to attend church regularly, her parents tell her stories from the Bible, and she joins her father in fasting from time to time. Harriet often dreams of her freedom and believes these visions are a message from the Lord, comparing her longing to the Israelites' search for the Promised Land. She later feels called by God to become a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and some of the people she helps believe the Lord had given her a special power, like Moses, to lead them. Harriet and her second husband, Nelson, are active members in their local church, and over the years, she encounters many Christians who are abolitionists. Harriet's funeral is a multi-congregational event, and her commitment to listening to the Lord's voice is acknowledged.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Harriet's owner and the other slave owners she knows show little regard for the personhood of their slaves. The slaves are horribly mistreated and families are often separated due to the sale of one or more members. Because her parents are required to work long hours, a 4-year-old Harriet is responsible for taking care of her younger siblings. Later Harriet expresses distrust for her owner because he does not free some of the slaves he inherited even though it is a stipulation in his great-grandfather's will. Harriet becomes a trusted leader on the Underground Railroad, as well as an influential speaker in support of abolition and is often referred to as "Moses" by the refugee slaves she helps to free and others in the anti-slavery movement. President Abraham Lincoln strives to unite the states and frees all the slaves in the Confederacy, but Harriet believes he should have worked harder to abolish slavery throughout the country.


There are brief descriptions of some of Harriet's more painful physical experiences as a slave and a black woman. She is whipped and beaten on more than one occasion and is hit in the head with a lead weight after not helping an overseer tie up a slave.


Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

9 to 13


Kem Knapp Sawyer






Record Label



DK Publishing


On Video

Year Published




We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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