February 6, 2019


The Bell Rang by James E Ransome is the story of a girl who experiences heartbreak and fear when her brother runs away from home to escape a life of slavery.

Every day is the same: in the morning, the plantation's overseer rings the bell, a girl's Daddy gathers wood, Mama cooks, and then her brother Ben and the other slaves go out to work while she stays with the younger children. Day in and day out, it's exactly the same. But one day the bell rings and Ben is nowhere to be found. He has escaped, and the family spends days in terror waiting and hoping for any sign that Ben has achieved freedom.

Ransome uses acrylics in his illustrations, and though the images are innately realistic, Ransome mixes in touches of abstraction that help to convey and heighten emotion. When the family discovers Ben is missing, the scene is tilted, with a purposely distorted perspective that enhances the chaos and confusion that everyone feels. The girl looks almost as though she's floating, undoubtedly reflecting her feelings of detachment from reality at the horror of her situation. Readers can't help but feel immediately drawn into Ransome's illustrations, and I think the design of the book –– from the endpapers to the cover image to the casewrap –– are absolutely perfect.

The Bell Rang published from Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books last month. Here's a peek underneath the dust jacket.

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