Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrator: James Ransome
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books, Penquin Group, Inc.
Publication Date: 2013
Summary: A little girl skips rope under the pine trees on a farm in South Carolina. The little girl grows up and she and her husband use that rope to tie suitcases on the top of the car as they move to New York City where they will have a better life. The rope is useful in the new apartment as a clothes line or for drying flowers from the window box . The rope is used for pulling a toy duck and then as a jump rope by the next daughter in the family. It is a jump rope that helps that daughter make friends with the girls on her block. The rope ties the baggage down in the car when she goes to college. When this daughter marries and has a home she weaves the rope around the family pictures on the piano and her husband uses the rope to show his daughter how to tie a good knot. The rope holds up a sign for the family reunion in the park. And then, Beatrice, the granddaughter of the little girl who skipped rope in South Carolina, gets a new rope for skipping while her grandmother holds on to the old one.
Literary elements at work in the story: The Great Migration, 1910-1970, that took 6 million black Americans from the south to cities in the north, is the historical basis of this work of fiction. Children, girls especially, will enjoy the girls (unnamed) who skip rope and the illustrations will make departures, the differences in place, the joy of a new home, the passage of time evident, but some additional information will be needed if children are to see this as a small slice of a larger historical event. The author provides this historical background inside the first page and with her dedication. James Ransom has an interesting dedication too. How much of this is shared will depend on age. The story stands on its own.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? This is a history of one African American family that is advancing from poverty to home ownership, from the limited, segregated life of the rural south to a college education and better jobs up north. No other races are shown in the pictures.
Theological Conversation Partners: Our salvation history begins with God’s call to Abraham to move, to go forth. (Genesis 12: 1-4; Hebrews 11:8) )This is lived by generations and is passed down through the stories that we call the Old Testament. (Deut. 10:14, 15; Ps. 78:1-4) These generations are listed to introduce Jesus in the Gospels. (Matt. 1:1-17, Luke 3:23-38). The generations have baggage to carry – an Ark, a celebration, guidance for life that will be written on scrolls. As the story continues the descendants have bread and wine, water. Someone has said that Christians who know only those of their generation are truly orphans. We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. This Is the Rope is a good vocabulary builder – generation, descendant – and a secular version of Abraham and the Exodus. This is an opportunity to think of ourselves as pilgrims and to remember what we take with us as we seek a Heavenly city.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Have you ever moved to a new town? What did you take with you? What did you have to leave behind?
- How was the new home in New York City different from the home in South Carolina?
- Why did the family move from South Carolina?
- We know the name of only one girl in the story, Beatrice. What generation was she?
- Who in the story is a descendant?
- Why was the rope important? What does it represent? What does it help the family remember?
- Do you have symbols or practices in your family that help you remember? A photo album? A special Christmas decoration? A souvenir?
- In the Christian church what symbols or signs do we have that help us to remember?
- Can you name some ancestors in your family? Ancestors in your Christian family, the church?
This review is written by regular contributor Virginia Thomas.