This Is the Rope – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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:

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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 thoughts on “This Is the Rope – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Beth Anderson says:

    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.

  2. FictionFan says:

    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…

      • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

        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 says:

          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 says:

            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!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      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.

  3. Mrs. P says:

    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 says:

      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. 😀

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      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.

  4. Ste J says:

    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.

  5. Kate Johnston says:

    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 says:

      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.”

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