musician, author, storyteller


A fine picture book
to sit on the shelf alongside
Ruby Bridges’ Through My Eyes (1999)
and Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier’s
Martin’s Big Words (2001).


Make a Change book cover

When Marvin asks his mama why they have to stand and wait to take their food home while everyone else can eat at the lunch counter, her answer doesn’t make a lot of sense to him. “When some people look at us, all they see is our skin color.” Despite his fear of the man who told him his kind wasn’t allowed to sit at the lunch counter, Marvin knows that it’s up to him to make a change.

Inspired by co-author James “Sparky” Rucker’s childhood, this significant story illuminates the tumultuous history of African Americans. Powerful illustrations and a historical note from the author makes this picture book an excellent educational resource on past and current racial tensions.


Book Reviews


A Crystal Kite Award Finalist!

A pageturner with a gripping story line, smooth narrative, beckoning character development and plenty of suspense.

~ Peter Michael, Underground Railroad Free Press

Swing Low, Sweet Harriet is a poignant read about slavery, the Civil War, and striking a blow for one’s liberty.

~ Rita Lorraine, Picture Book Depot

Swing Low, Sweet Harriet

Rucker’s enthralling and suspenseful storytelling skills bring to vivid life this important period in American history.

~ Tina LoTufo, Chapter 16

Ben, a 13-year-old slave, figures he’s too young to be a spy for the Union Army. That’s before he overhears Rebel soldiers talk about planting something in the Combahee River. Later, he finds a strange, dark object floating near the riverbank. During the next few weeks, he finds more.

Then Moses, a mysterious runaway slave woman, sneaks on the plantation and shows up at Sunday night meeting. She claims to work for the Union and says the Yankee soldiers will be bringing their gunboats to rescue slaves. But there’s one problem: the Rebels are planting torpedoes in the river – mines that could blow up the boats. She’s trying to find the location of the torpedoes. During one visit, Moses has a seizure. The preacher promptly declares her a conjure woman and not to be trusted.

Ben’s not sure if he should tell Moses about the objects in the river. If he’s discovered passing information to the enemy, he could be whipped – or even sold. But if he doesn’t tell, he could be throwing away an opportunity for freedom – not only for himself, but also his family and friends.

Swing Low, Sweet Harriet is a middle-grade historical novel published by Motes Books. It is based on Harriet Tubman’s work as a spy and scout during the Civil War when she helped lead African American soldiers on the Combahee River raid in South Carolina.


Book Reviews

In addition to being sold at our concerts and on our website, the book is sold by local and online booksellers and distributed worldwide by Ingram.

Motes Books also offers single-shipment quantity purchases to libraries, schools, and book clubs. (See the information on their home page.)

Highlights article photo

Highlights article photo page 2

"Rescuing Miracle," is an article in the February 2013 issue of HIGHLIGHTS magazine about a sick and starving black bear cub who got better with the help of a teddy bear.

Encyclopedia of Appalachia

Rhonda was a contributing author for the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF APPALACHIA, published in 2006 by the University of Tennessee Press.

Team Up! Tell In Tandem!

Rhonda and Sparky co-wrote a chapter in the storytelling book, TEAM UP! TELL IN TANDEM! published by PRESTO and US Storytelling Publications.


Make a Change, published by Pelican Publishing, 2017.

Swing Low, Sweet Harriet , published by Motes Books, 2013.

“Rescuing Miracle,” Highlights for Children (February 2013).

“Telling Tales in Tandem” chapter co-written with James “Sparky” Rucker for the book, Team Up! Tell In Tandem! (Published in 2010 by PRESTO and US Storytelling Publications).

Contributing author for Encyclopedia of Appalachia, edited by Rudy Abramson and Jean Haskell (University of Tennessee Press, 2006).

“Going Native” (an article on gardening with native plants) syndicated by Blue Ridge Press (posted May 21, 2001); appeared in several southeastern newspapers, including Chattanooga Times and Free Press, Roanoke Times, Anniston Star, and Southwest Virginia Enterprise.

“Diabetic Dilemma: Study Raises Questions About Eye Examinations,” The Daily Times (August 15, 2000).

“Otter’s Grandchildren, a Tale of Success” (a review of the river otter restoration project in Tennessee), The Southerner (Summer, 2000).

“Dogwood Students Make a Difference” (an article describing one school’s participation in an environmental education program), The Hellbender Press (Summer, 2000).

“Bones, Birds, and Butterflies: Environmental Education in East Tennessee,” The Hellbender Press (Summer, 2000).

“Influx of Chip Mills Ignites Dispute Over Water Quality,” The Hellbender Press (Summer, 2000).

Contributed several articles to Good Health, a patient newsletter for East Tennessee Medical Group (1998 - 1999).

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