Ladd's evocative and subtly textured acrylic, pastel, and colored pencil art reflects the evolving tenor of the story as uncertainty gives way to hope. ~ Publisher's Weekly

Ladd uses acrylic and pastel paints with colored pencils to present a realistic depiction of events, the danger that the men faced while escaping and the jubilation felt as they listened to the words that freed them.  A valuable addition to the expanding canon of books on slaves escaping to freedom. ~ Kirkus Reviews

Under the Freedom Tree is both a beautiful tribute to a lasting symbol of freedom and a powerful reminder that one brave action can change the course of history. ~ BookPage

Using the painted illustrations, by London Ladd, to discuss emotions and actions mentioned in the text is recommended.  Highly recommended, Under the Freedom Tree will bring an oft overlooked story into focus for children and adults alike. Ages 6-9, although I recommend this book for the older range of that scale and above. ~ Vegbooks

Realistic acrylic paintings depict the everyday life of the "enemy property," as the growing community builds a new town near the old oak tree that serves as shade for the school and place of joy to celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation. Slavery is a challenging topic to introduce to young readers, but they have to start somewhere. This, along with Shane Evans's Underground, is a terrific place to begin. ~ The Horn Book

Illustrator London Ladd's heartfelt renditions of tragedy and triumph breathe life into the bold acts that ultimately played convincing roles in Lincoln's decision to craft the Emancipation Proclamation. ~ Debbie Gonzales,

Illustrator Ladd conveys so much spirit and emotion in every spread, whether by depicting children being taught under the shade of the oak or the joyful gathering of the community to hear the reading of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. "Lives forever changed under the Freedom Tree." ~ Ronna Mandel,

Illustrator London Ladd went to great lengths to ensure that his depictions truly reflect the time and place of the Freedom Tree. He works with a combination of acrylics, pastels and pencils, and the results are incredibly beautiful. You'll find yourself looking at his illustrations over and over again and appreciating his artistic brilliance. ~ Debbie Slade,

Ladd's illustrations are nothing short of magnificent. Bold, emoting, and intense. His light illuminates on every page, drawing the human eye to the drama. ~ Carmen Oliver,



  • A Junior Library Guild selection
  • The Horn Book Magazine - Black History Month recommendation
  • BookPage - Black History Month recommendation
  • AudioFile Earphones Award
  • Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People by the Children's Book Council and National Council for the Social Studies (CBC/NCSS)
  • Chicago Public Library's list of Best Picture Books of 2014
  • 2014 CYBILS Award nomination