This Is the Rope – Perfect Picture Book Friday

22 Jan

I loved Jacqueline Woodson’s MG/YA book, “Brown Girl Dreaming.” It was the first book I’d ever read by this fabulous writer. So I went in search of some of her picture books. And I’m happy to say that I love “This Is the Rope” just as much. So here’s my book for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday:

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 10.07.49 AM

Why I Like It: Lyrical language. Gorgeous and evocative illustrations (oil on paper) by James Ransome. A fictional story that tells a larger truth, it’s a book I could read over and over again. 

Theme: The Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North in the United States. A short foreword to the book explains how from the 1900s until the mid 1970s, more than six million African Americans moved from the rural South to several northern cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City, seeking better lives. (It’s also a story of how families and individuals within them create their personal narratives.)

At the end of the foreword Woodson states: “‘This Is the Rope’ is a work of fiction. The rope we brought to this ‘new country’ was Hope. It remains with us.”

Story: The narrative traces the journey of a rope from South Carolina to New York City, a journey that takes it from the hands of a girl (the grandmother) skipping rope under “sweet-smelling pine” in South Carolina, ties it around the luggage strapped on top of car headed toward NYC, hangs it in an apartment to dry flowers, strings it out as a line to dry laundry for freshly washed diapers for the grandmother’s first baby(the author’s mother), uses it as a cord for a pull-toy as the baby gets older, entices neighbors to play jump rope with the growing girl, gets used to tie luggage onto the car as the teenage girl goes to college, and ties up a family reunion banner as the third generation takes its place in history.

The ending circles back to the grandmother, now holding that “threadbare and greying” rope, watching her granddaughter use a new rope for jump rope games. She holds onto that rope “and her long-ago memory of sweet-smelling pine.”

One of my favorite quotes:

“This is the rope my daddy used

when he showed me the way

to tie a sailor’s knot—

‘Two times around and pull it real tight.

You want whatever you make or do

in your life,’ my daddy said, ‘to last…”


Title: This Is the Rope

Author: Jacqueline Woodson

Illustrator: James Ransome

Publisher: Penguin Book Group: Nancy Paulsen Books

Pub Date: 2013

Ages: K-3rd grade 

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Jacqueline Woodson


Jacqueline Woodson’s awards include 3 Newbery Honors, a Coretta Scott King Award and 3 Coretta Scott King Honors, 2 National Book Awards, a Margaret A. Edwards Award and an ALAN Award — both for Lifetime Achievement in YA Literature. She is the author of more than 2 dozen books for children and young adults and lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York

46 Responses to “This Is the Rope – Perfect Picture Book Friday”

  1. Carrie Rubin January 22, 2016 at 10:41 am #

    Wow, sounds like a wonderful read for adults too. And what a great author pic the author has. I need something casual and fun like that. My JC Penney’s head shot is boring.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann January 22, 2016 at 10:59 am #

      Get thee to a cooler than cool photographer, and you, too, will have an author pic that your sons will love. 😀

      • Carrie Rubin January 22, 2016 at 11:34 am #

        I’m just so lazy about it. Always something else to do. Plus, I hate having my picture taken. The excuses are endless. 😉

  2. Beth Anderson January 22, 2016 at 12:10 pm #

    I really like this book! It’s a great example of using an object as a thread in a story. And many of us have these sorts of objects in our lives that mean different things at different points.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann January 22, 2016 at 12:16 pm #

      Yes, it is. I think it’s a terrific mentor text for other authors. And the underlying theme of how objects are instilled with significance as we go through our lives is truly universal.

  3. Letizia January 22, 2016 at 12:27 pm #

    I love the intergenerational aspect of this and the lyricism as well. Another great find!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann January 22, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

      Yes, it appeals to my sense of extended family. I’ve written an essay for an entry in a “Listen to Your Mother” performance ( that deals with family objects gone missing. So this theme was particularly poignant for me. I’ll know in early March if I’m selected to audition, then the performance is in May. Stay tuned….

      • Letizia January 22, 2016 at 12:46 pm #

        What an interesting premise! Do let us know if you are selected! If not, I hope you will present the essay in some form elsewhere.

        • Jilanne Hoffmann January 22, 2016 at 2:07 pm #

          I was selected to audition a humorous essay last year (based on my post about making spaetzle) but was too ill at the time of the audition to attend. So I hope this new essay makes it to the audition stage. If not, I will most likely share it on my blog. Fingers crossed!

        • Letizia January 22, 2016 at 2:11 pm #

          Fingers crossed here! xx

  4. julie rowan zoch January 22, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

    On my list!

  5. FictionFan January 22, 2016 at 1:47 pm #

    I love the idea of the rope as linking through the generations. My mother was an avid de-clutterer long before such a term was invented, and I always regret that we don’t have many things that have descended down through the generations. Woodson seems to have the gift of finding imaginative ways to tell her stories…

    • Lady Fancifull January 22, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

      We part company FF – MY mother was an avid clutterer. Alas, it must be in the genes AND the nurture…………..

      • Jilanne Hoffmann January 22, 2016 at 2:14 pm #

        Clutter, by any other name, would still drive us all to drink when cleaning out said parental home. Otherwise, yes, I claim the clutter gene tightly to my chest lest someone try to steal it from me.

        • Lady Fancifull January 22, 2016 at 2:25 pm #

          I don’t think I have it QUITE as bad as my mother had it………..we had a cellar, and I decided (after not having been down it forever) that it would be a great place to hold my 18th birthday party, and embarked on a decorating project – except, I found a veritable army of empty jam jars. Hundreds of them. My mother had decided at some point, back in the dim and distant, that she might want to make jam (this never happened, however) but she did save the jars, just in case. She could have set herself up as jam-maker to the navy, army, and air-force. There were also years and years of newspapers. I had the party, but not in that cellar. Clearing it took up too much time for the redecorating to happen

        • Jilanne Hoffmann January 22, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

          Well, at least the jars could be repurposed and filled with tasty alcoholic drinks, the ones you’ll need while cleaning the jars out of the basement. Similarly, my mother filled a closet shelf with boxes of checks she had written over the course of her entire life. The bonfire was spectacular!

        • Lady Fancifull January 22, 2016 at 2:33 pm #

          All that limits me is a flat, rather than a house with cellar and loft!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann January 22, 2016 at 2:13 pm #

      You should be happy your mother was a de-clutterer. We had to clean out my parents’ house after they died. Oh, the basement. The tragedy of the basement! And my mother’s office. I still have PTSD from that experience. 😀

      As I was mentioning to another reader, this topic is dear to my heart. You’ll know why later this spring. Woodson is a talented storyteller. I can only dream of achieving her level of success.

      • FictionFan January 22, 2016 at 3:33 pm #

        I am intrigued now! One more reason to wish spring would hurry up… 😀

  6. Patricia Tilton January 22, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

    This is a favorite book of mine. Such a lovely review. I love the symbolism in the book. Also loved Woodson’s THE OTHER SIDE and EACH KINDNESS, but I’m sure you’ve read them too.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann January 22, 2016 at 2:15 pm #

      Yes, I’m working my way through her list. She’s phenomenal!

  7. Kara Newhouse January 22, 2016 at 5:42 pm #

    Such a good one!

  8. Mrs. P January 23, 2016 at 5:58 am #

    Wow…what an awesome story, and your review and description should be attached to Amazon and Goodreads. I do hope you share these reviews with standard outlets.

    I loved the link you attached in the comments. I wish you much success and pleas, do share if you are selected! 😀 😀

    • Jilanne Hoffmann January 23, 2016 at 3:22 pm #

      Thanks! I haven’t done any linking of my reviews to either of those two sites. Am I too lazy to figure out how to do that? Hmmmm. Maybe I should give it a try. Thanks for the suggestion!

      Thanks for the good wishes! My blogging friends will hear my joyful cries all the way from the wet, west coast. 😀

      • Mrs. P January 23, 2016 at 6:49 pm #

        YAY…looking forward!

  9. Andrea Mack January 23, 2016 at 8:17 am #

    I hadn’t heard of this one but now I definitely want to read it, and perhaps add it to my personal collection. It sounds very meaningful.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann January 23, 2016 at 10:10 am #

      Yes! Woodson’s work is filled with layers of meaning, including the circular structure that is also a metaphor for generations of families. I think you’ll get quite a bit from this book.

  10. Joanne Sher January 23, 2016 at 4:26 pm #

    This looks FABulous! Gonna try to request it from my library. Thanks, Jilanne!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann January 23, 2016 at 9:31 pm #

      My pleasure, Joanne. Hope they have it. If they don’t, you should suggest they get a copy. Cheers!

  11. ThisKidReviewsBooks January 23, 2016 at 6:42 pm #

    This sounds great. 🙂

    • Jilanne Hoffmann January 23, 2016 at 9:32 pm #

      As Tony the Tiger used to say: It’s ggggrrreeeeaaat! 😀

  12. Book Club Mom January 23, 2016 at 8:07 pm #

    This sounds really great – and I love the cover!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann January 23, 2016 at 9:33 pm #

      The cover is just the tip of the beautiful illustration iceberg. I think the oil paintings give the illustrations a huge amount of depth, texture, and richness—matching the text perfectly.

  13. heylookawriterfellow January 25, 2016 at 11:21 am #

    I’m familiar with this book — and you’re right. It is a perfect picture book if there ever was one.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann January 25, 2016 at 12:09 pm #

      It’s so dull and boring when we’re in complete agreement. But then you’re most likely just trying to dig yourself out of a snowdrift and can’t stand the thought of digging yourself into a different kind of hole—one occupied by an assortment of rodents. Perhaps reading Kate Messner’s “Over and Under the Snow” is called for during snow emergencies.

      • heylookawriterfellow January 27, 2016 at 6:54 am #

        Fear not, my friend. I am sure an opinion of yours will soon make my head shake in utter dismay.

  14. dkatiepowellart January 26, 2016 at 7:20 am #

    Sounds amazing — I love the rope/hope angle…

    • Jilanne Hoffmann January 26, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

      It is beautiful. We all need a rope of hope to hold on to, don’t you think?

  15. Ste J January 26, 2016 at 8:03 am #

    I think this is a book that everybody can enjoy and will be kept in the family and passed down. It does sound wonderful and so has to go on the TBR list.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann January 26, 2016 at 12:33 pm #

      Yay! Yes, please. Pass it down. Pass it around. It will touch your heart.

  16. Kate Johnston January 27, 2016 at 3:12 am #

    That book sounds awesome, and I love the author’s photo, nice and cas’. I love children’s books that deal with historical events in a personal way. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that so many African Americans moved north in the early 1900s, but I didn’t know anything about it. I bet this would be a great book for adults, too.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann January 27, 2016 at 9:37 am #

      This book definitely helps you feel (on a deep emotional level) how uprooting oneself for a better life (very similar to today’s immigrant experience) may be successful, but it can also leave a hole and a permanent sense of longing in one’s heart. I think Woodson shows this beautifully. I’ve learned much by reading children’s nonfiction. Today’s nonfiction is so much more engaging than books of old. So I’m gobbling them up, enriching my own knowledge banks while I hand them over to my son to read for his “critique.”

  17. roughwighting February 7, 2016 at 2:13 pm #

    Great review about a book and an author I didn’t know about. And I’m laughing at Carrie’s comment. Yes, I think I better redo my headshot too! 😜

    • Jilanne Hoffmann February 7, 2016 at 4:39 pm #

      Oh, that we all could look so cool and casual in our headshots! 😀

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