This is a great choice for African American History month. The author uses the song, Follow the Drinking Gourd, as the basis for the story. It would be great to have a gourd, or at least a picture of one to show as well as a picture of the Big Dipper and the North Star.
Students have an opportunity to infer that Joe is anti-slavery since he is helping slaves to escape.
Cause and effect can be taught as because Joe teaches the song to the slaves, it has the effect that the slaves have a tool with which to use as they follow the pathway to freedom.
Symbolism is used as the words in the song stand for the Tombigbee and Ohio Rivers and the gourd is the big dipper. The concept of an underground railroad is symbolical of a real railroad.
The music and words are included at the end of the book.