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Most Loved in All the World: A Story of Freedom    by Tonya Cherie Hegamin & Cozbi A. Cabrera order for
Most Loved in All the World
by Tonya Cherie Hegamin
Order:  USA  Can
Houghton Mifflin, 2009 (2009)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Tonya Cherie Hegamin's oversized picture book, with its vivid color illustrations inside and out by Cozbi A. Cabrera, will grab young readers' attention. I read and re-read it myself - with much emotion.

Most Loved in All the World is a tenderly written story of a time in the United States' history of slavery. A little girl watches while her mother works in the fields: 'Mama works hard in the field. / My hands are too little. My job is to bring water. / Mama's hands are bleeding 'cause she pick so much cotton. / I'm too little, but I wish I could help ... Tonight I'll rub salve in Mama's cuts.'

After working the fields all day, Mama spends hours at night cutting material to make quilts. Some are for the Big House for the Massa to sell. But one quilt is sewn with engrossing love for a special purpose and person ... it has different shapes to form 'a log cabin / a star / a brown tree with green on one side / a little girl'.

'Tonight when Mama come home / she have whip marks 'cross her back. / Tonight when Mama come home / she have tear marks down her face'. From her torn shirt Mama 'cuts out a big heart'. Many nights later, Mama awakens her daughter: '"We goin' to a meetin'", she whispers. / "Put on your clothes, quiet as you can."'

In the darkness, Mama wraps the special quilt around the little one – for the girl Most Loved in All the World. As Mama gives her daughter to a woman with her arms outstretched, '"Remember what I told you about Freedom?" she ask.' The youngster wonders why Mama isn't going with her.

In her Author's Note to Parents and Educators, Tonya Cherie Hegamin writes: 'When I wrote this story, I envisioned a woman, a spy and secret agent on the Underground Railroad, a woman who valued freedom so much that she would desire her child's more than her own.'

The author holds an MFA in Writing for Children from the New School University, and is a graduate of Cave Canem, an intensive program for African American poets. She is the author of a young adult novel entitled M+O 4EVR. Illustrator Cabrera attended the Parsons School of Design in New York; she has gained collectors’ attention around the world with her handcrafted cloth dolls.

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