Skip to main content
Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group


The Daring Escape of Ona Judge

Written by Ray Anthony Shepard; illustrated by Keith Mallett

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)


A powerful poem about Ona Judge's life and her self-emancipation from George Washington’s household.

Ona Judge was enslaved by the Washingtons, and served the President's wife, Martha. Ona was widely known for her excellent skills as a seamstress, and was raised alongside Washington’s grandchildren. Indeed, she was frequently mistaken for his granddaughter. This poetic biography follows her childhood and adolescence until she decides to run away.

Author Ray Anthony Shepard welcomes meaningful and necessary conversation among young readers about the horrors of slavery and the experience of house servants through call-and-response style lines. Illustrator Keith Mallett’s rich paintings include fabric collage and add further feeling and majesty to Ona’s daring escape.

With extensive backmatter, this poem may serve as a new introduction to American slavery and Ona Judge's legacy.

Praise for Runaway

"With a distinctive, haunting voice, powerful images, and thought-provoking story structure, this unique look at a remarkable young woman’s life choices and decisions offers an utterly necessary but seldom highlighted perspective on the contradictions within our society’s foundations.A powerful antidote to whitewashed cultural mythology." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"A stunning picture book debut . . . an evocative portrait that keenly interrogates the structures upon which America is built." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"A fine addition to all collections." —Booklist

"This is a moving complement to Dunbar’s Never Caught (BCCB 1/19) as well as a potent exemplar of scathing historical critique." —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (BCCB)


Reviews from Goodreads

Written by Ray Anthony Shepard; illustrated by Keith Mallett

Ray Anthony Shepard is a former teacher and retired editor-in-chief of a major education publishing company. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska College of Education and the Harvard Graduate School Education where he received a Martin Luther King Jr. Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. His other books for children include Now or Never!: 54th Massachusetts Infantry's War to End Slavery.

Keith Mallett
was born in Pennsylvania and received his formal art training at the Art Students League, and Hunter College in New York City. He has worked as a freelance artist for fifteen years and was the in-house artist for Frontline Art Publishers. He also illustrated How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz (Jonah Winter). Keith's work is currently published by Canadian Art Prints, one of the largest fine art publishers in the world.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Latest on Facebook