Looking for the best Underground Railroad books for kids? These Underground Railroad children’s books for elementary students are engaging for primary and upper elementary kids. Picture books and middle grade novels about the Underground Railroad with lesson plans and activities linked. Books both fiction and nonfiction about Harriet Tubman, surviving the Underground Railroad, Jewish immigrants and more for your kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade students. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!
If you’re a member of the Picture Book Brain Trust Community, you already have access to EVERY lesson plan and activity for these books! Just click on the Lesson Plans button in the menu!
Moses by Carole Boston Weatherford
I set the North Star in the heavens and I mean for you to be free…
Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman hears these words from God one summer night and decides to leave her husband and family behind and escape. Taking with her only her faith, she must creep through woods with hounds at her feet, sleep for days in a potato hole, and trust people who could have easily turned her in. But she was never alone. This one can get a little preachy at times, but that was how Harriet Tubman was. Certainly a book worth of being one of the best read aloud books for 5th grade.
Born on the Water
A young student receives a family tree assignment in school, but she can only trace back three generations. Grandma gathers the whole family, and the student learns that 400 years ago, in 1619, their ancestors were stolen and brought to America by white slave traders.
But before that, they had a home, a land, a language. She learns how the people said to be born on the water survived.
Follow The Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter
Winter’s story begins with a peg-leg sailor who aids slaves on their escape on the Underground Railroad. While working for plantation owners, Peg Leg Joe teaches the slaves a song about the drinking gourd (the Big Dipper). A couple, their son, and two others make their escape by following the song’s directions. Rich paintings interpret the strong story in a clean, primitive style enhanced by bold colors. The rhythmic compositions have an energetic presence that’s compelling
Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine
Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom.
A young girl’s courage is tested in this haunting, wordless story.
When a farm girl discovers a runaway slave hiding in the barn, she is at once startled and frightened. But the stranger’s fearful eyes weigh upon her conscience, and she must make a difficult choice. Will she have the courage to help him? Unspoken gifts of humanity unite the girl and the runaway as they each face a journey: one following the North Star, the other following her heart. Henry Cole’s unusual and original rendering of the Underground Railroad speaks directly to our deepest sense of compassion.
Before She Was Harriet
We know her today as Harriet Tubman, but in her lifetime she was called by many names. General Tubman she was a Union spy. As Moses she led hundreds to freedom on the Underground Railroad. She was also Minty, a slave whose spirit could not be broken. As Araminta she was a young girl whose father showed her the stars and the first steps on the path to freedom.
This lush, lyrical biography in verse begins with a glimpse of Harriet Tubman as an old woman, and travels back in time through the many roles she played through her life: spy, liberator, suggragist and more. Illustrated by James Ransome, whose paintings for The Creation won a Coretta Scott King medal, this is a riveting introduction to an American hero.
Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky
Cassie, who flew above New York in Tar Beach, soars into the sky once more. This time, she and her brother Be Be meet a train full of people, and Be Be joins them. But the train departs before Cassie can climb aboard. With Harriet Tubman as her guide, Cassie retraces the steps escaping slaves took on the real Underground Railroad and is finally reunited with her brother at the story’s end.
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt
Clara, a slave and seamstress on Home Plantation, dreams of freedom—not just for herself, but for her family and friends. When she overhears a conversation about the Underground Railroad, she has a flash of inspiration. Using scraps of cloth from her work in the Big House and scraps of information gathered from other slaves, she fashions a map that the master would never even recognize. . . .
Barefoot: Escape on the Underground Railroad
In the dark of the night a Barefoot, an escaped slave, flees for his life. With his pursuers close behind and the moon shrouded in clouds, Barefoot must rely on the wisdom of the wild animals of the forest and swamp to guide him to the safety of the underground railroad. Innovative perspective and use of light and a spare text result in an unforgettable portrayal of one slave’s journey to freedom.
A journey with the underground railroad’s most daring abolitionist.
Alexander Ross walked the plantation fields in the Deep South, freely and with permission. He was a famous ornithologist — visiting the plantations to study the birdlife. But Alexander Milton Ross was no ordinary birdman. He was an undercover Abolitionist. And he had news to spread to the men and women living in slavery about the Underground Railroad. He knew the routes, the location of the safe houses and the best ways to head to freedom in Canada.
Discover the forgotten life and true adventures of a daring Abolitionist who risked everything to help bring freedom and dignity to the heroic men and women enslaved in the American south.
Back matter includes historical notes.
Almost to Freedom
The son of an enslaved blacksmith learns that his father is using the rhythm of his hammering to communicate with travelers on the Underground Railroad.
When Pa falls ill, it’s up to his son to help others along the journey―and also lead his family’s escape.
Pa works hard as a blacksmith. But he’s got another important job to do as well: using his anvil to pound out the traveling rhythm―a message to travelers on the Underground Railroad. His son wants to help, but Pa keeps putting him off. Then one day, Pa falls ill, and the boy has to take over.
What Was the Underground Railroad
No one knows where the term Underground Railroad came from–there were no trains or tracks, only “conductors” who helped escaping slaves to freedom. Including real stories about “passengers” on the “Railroad,” this book chronicles slaves’ close calls with bounty hunters, exhausting struggles on the road, and what they sacrificed for freedom. With 80 black-and-white illustrations throughout and a sixteen-page black-and-white photo insert, the Underground Railroad comes alive!
Who Was Harriet Tubman
Born a slave in Maryland, Harriet Tubman knew first-hand what it meant to be someone’s property; she was whipped by owners and almost killed by an overseer. It was from other field hands that she first heard about the Underground Railroad which she travelled by herself north to Philadelphia. Throughout her long life (she died at the age of ninety-two) and long after the Civil War brought an end to slavery, this amazing woman was proof of what just one person can do.
Best Underground Railroad books
What are some of your favorite Underground Railroad books? Are there any must read Underground Railroad books that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!