Local teacher-turned-author Jerdine Nolan has something to celebrate this weekend: the national book launch of her first novel, Eliza’s Freedom Road: An Underground Railroad Diary.

The Maryland Women’s Heritage Center will host Nolan on Saturday, January 22nd from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Nolan will speak and sign copies of the book, which are available for purchase.

It’s probably no coincidence that the book is being launched the week we observe Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and as schools nationally begin to dive into African American History month celebrations. Why not nab a copy of Nolan’s book and bring history – – and civil rights dialogue – – to your family dinner table?

While the book is geared toward eight to twelve-year-olds, it’s narrative journal style lends itself to read aloud and discussion. Let’s be clear – – I’m not sure your two year old is ready for an in depth discussion about slavery and the underground railroad; however, I am darn sure that Nolan’s book will be an excellent conversation starter for your older kiddos.

“This story draws much of its inspiration from a constant theme in human experience: the act of traveling to go to a better way of life,” says Nolan.

Nolan, whose picture books have won accolades from the American Library Association and International Reading Association, is an Ellicott City resident and former Baltimore County school teacher. She and Kadir Nelson collaborated on Thunder Rose, winner of a Coretta Scott King award for illustration. Booklist called the picture book “An exuberant tall tale with an irresistible African American heroine.” Might be a good one to pick up for your itty bitty ones.

Saturday’s book launch and signing is FREE and open to the public.

You can grab the book hot off the press — literally. (cool) progeny is giving away a free book thanks to The Maryland Women’s Heritage Center. Want to win the free book? All you have to do is fill out this quick form. Want a second entry? Just leave a comment telling us what book recently inspired conversation at your dinner table.

You have until Friday, January 21st at 5:00 PM to enter!

PS: Our most recent book inspired dinner convo? A rousing re-telling of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Three times. We’re in that repetitive phase… at least it encouraged her to eat her peas.