Love Twelve Miles Long by Glenda Armand, illustrated by Colin Bootman
Trust me on this one: Debut author Glenda Armand’s Love Twelve Miles Long is THE perfect book to share today.
“This was a special night,” the story begins, “Mama had come to visit …” Mama and her young son Frederick are slaves, forced to live separate lives, their moments together precious and brief. Mama walks 12 long miles to visit her son, but “‘[t]he way I walk makes the journey shorter.'” Mile by mile, she tells Frederick about her sojourn toward reunion: “‘Every mile is special … Each mile is for something different.'”
The first mile is for forgetting … about the pain and exhaustion from her endless labors out in the fields. But the second mile begins her remembering: her inquisitive son, how happy he makes her, how proud she is of him. She remembers to listen to the night sounds around her, to look at the stars that light her way. She spends the sixth mile in prayer, “‘… that one day we will all be free.'” She sings, she dances, she gives thanks, she hopes, she dreams … and finally she reaches the twelfth mile which is devoted to love. And there at journey’s end is her beloved son … yet all too soon, she will hug and kiss him one last time as he falls asleep, just before she must slip out into the moonlit light, alone once more.
Rendered in rich, glowing watercolors by award-winning Colin Bootman, Armand’s first-ever book is a true story, oh so gorgeously told. Mama’s name was Harriet Bailey; her son changed his last name to Douglass when he escaped from slavery. Just as Mama hoped and dreamed, Frederick Douglass grew up to “‘ … do big and important things.'”
Newbie she might be, Armand will certainly continue to ‘do big and important things’ with her writing. Back in 2006, Armand won Lee & Low Books’ New Voices Award, and her winning Love just hit shelves last month. Let’s hope Love finds a home in every library, public and private. Surely this is one gift that will keep on giving for decades to come.