Slavery has separated 11-year-old Clara from her mother, but at the new plantation, Aunt Rachel — not a "for-real blood aunt, but she did her best to care for me" — manages to get her out of the fields and into the Big House as a seamstress. There Clara listens, and learns. While white men visit the Big House, their drivers sit in the bustling kitchen, talking of runaway slaves and a path to freedom that anyone could follow if they only had a map. Their words stay with Clara, until one day she has an inspiration: she can put together the cloth in her scrap bag to make a secret map no master will ever suspect. Clara works slowly and carefully on her project. Though no one admits to knowing what she's doing, somehow it's arranged that details of the terrain to the North are discussed where she might overhear. The drivers, the master's hunting guide, and even her friend, Young Jack, whose own attempt to run away was unsuccessful, give Clara the information she needs to sew her freedom quilt. The work takes a long time; months can go by while Clara waits for a scrap of cloth in the right color: blue for creeks and rivers, green for fields, white for roads. When the map is finally finished, Clara is the first to use it, but she leaves the quilt itself behind to help others find their way. This powerful story, told in conversational dialect and illustrated with magnificently rendered paintings, is based on a little-known chapter in the history of the Underground Railroad, in which quilts were made to provide secret codes to slaves escaping north. Winner of the International Reading Association Award, among other honors, Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt is a stunning combination of text and pictures that can be shared with children of a variety of ages and reading abilities.