the Birthday Party Pledge blog

Ideas to Help Build a New Generation of Readers

Spotlight on “Love Twelve Miles Long” by Glenda Armand, Illustrated by Colin Bootman

on February 3, 2012

One of our favorite publishers is the family-owned Lee & Low Books, committed to quality and diversity. As of 2010, the company had published more than 650 titles, and just recently, they acquired the assets of Children’s Book Press, the first specialty publisher of multicultural children’s books in the United States. With this addition Lee & Low Books becomes one of the largest independent multicultural children’s publishers in the country.

Recently, Lee & Low published an amazing story based on the childhood of Frederick Douglass called Love Twelve Miles Long by Glenda Armand and illustrated by Colin Bootman.

When Frederick was young, he and his mother were separated because of slavery. As Douglass wrote in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass:

It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age. Frequently, before the child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it, and hired out on some farm a considerable distance off, and the child is placed under the care of an old woman, too old for field labor. For what this separation is done, I do not know, unless it be to hinder the development of the child’s affection toward its mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child. This is the inevitable result.

But Frederick’s mother was different. Whenever she could, after working hard in the fields all day, she trudged the twelve miles to see Frederick, and then had to walk back again to be ready to work at sun-up. It was her love of her son and dreams of freedom that kept her going.

The illustrations in this book are beautiful, expertly conveying the love and warmth between mother and son.

This powerful testament to a mother’s love and a slave’s dedication to the dream of freedom is not to be missed!

Note: Lee & Low identifies the interest level for this book as “Grades 1 – 6,” but don’t let that deter you adults from reading it. My husband and I both loved it and found it truly inspirational!


To see exactly what Frederick’s mother had to endure, “four brave desk jockeys from LEE & LOW BOOKS set out to see what it is like to walk twelve miles through the streets of New York City.” Their journey is recorded for us on this very amusing video, here. Needless to say, they did not walk another twelve after a brief rest in order fully to replicate what Frederick’s mother did.


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