Tag Archives: slavery

A Friday Surprise…on Wednesday

27 Apr

One of the arcs I picked up at ALA Midwinter in January was this


My Name is Not Friday by Jon Walter, is the tale of a Samuel, born in freedom, but, by a twist of fate is kidnapped and sold into slavery, just as the Civil War is ending.

Goodreads Summary: ‘This boy has bought me. This white boy who don’t even look as old as I am. He owns me body and soul and my worth has been set at six hundred dollars.’

Samuel’s an educated boy. Been taught by a priest. He was never supposed to be a slave.
He’s a good boy too, thoughtful and kind. The type of boy who’d take the blame for something he didn’t do if it meant he saved his brother. So now they don’t call him Samuel. Not anymore. And the sound of guns is getting ever closer…

An extraordinary tale of endurance and hope, Jon Walter’s second novel is a beautiful and moving story about the power of belief and the strength of the human spirit, set against the terrifying backdrop of the American Civil War.

This is great read for middle grade kids for a number of reasons. First, it tackles slavery and, though it doesn’t show the worst aspects, it shows many horrible aspects of it. It shows the power of reading and the power of  faith without being preachy. I will say that the opening, which begins with a blind-folded Samuel being carried off to be sold into slavery, is a little confusing. Walter opens with a classic “start in the middle” strategy that might turn off a reader. Once they are in through, readers will find Samuel a reliable narrator and a good friend.

Finding strength in a cruel world

10 Nov


Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls Who Escaped Modern Slavery by Abby Sher, is just what the title tells us. It is difficult to read yet hard to put down. It tells the story of three survivors of sexual slavery. Three very brave survivors, because they decided to help those who are still caught up in the system. It is heart-breaking, horrifying and inspiring all at the same time.


Girls Like Us, a novel by Gail Giles, is a novel about Biddy and Quincy who graduate  from special ed and have to face the world. They have to struggle against prejudice and injustice but find out that they can come to rely on their own strengths as well as on each other.

Non-fiction Sunday

22 Jun

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Here is an incredible pair of books:  A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown’s War Against Slavery by Albert Marrin and Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud and Divided a Nation by Sally M. Walker.

In A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown’s War Against Slavery,  Marrin has not only written a biography of John Brown, but he also offers historical background on slavery in general and how it manifested itself in the US. We learn of John Brown’s relationship with abolitionists and his radicalization. And all this is set against the backdrop of  the years before the Civil War. An excellent addition to US history collections, the book has a substantial number  of photos,  illustrations and artwork from the period, all of which are well captioned, as well as notes, a bibliography for further reading and an index.

Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud and Divided a Nation by Sally M. Walker is history and geography, mingled with astronomy, math, politics and religion. I think of the line as a Civil War issue, but its history stretches back to the beginnings of the United States, when settlers came to escape religious persecution in England. It continues through property disputes between  the pens and Calverts ,until Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon are called upon to survey the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland. This is a tough read at times and might be best suited for high school students.It is not as dramatic or exciting as  Volcano, but definitely interesting and worth reading.


Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

17 Nov

Cover art and titles are meant to draw us in. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. If I hadn’t heard about


Africa is My Home: A Child of the Amistad by Monica Edinger, I don’t think I would have picked it up. Once you’ve read the book the title makes total sense, and is, in fact the perfect title. But it didn’t work for me at first.

Did you know there were kids on the Amistad? I didn’t and neither did Edinger. When she found out, she had to write about it. She tried to write it as a non-fiction book, but so much was unknown she opted for historical fiction.

The book is inspired by the true story of one of the children on the Amistad, Magulu who became known as Sarah Margru Kinson. What I found most fascinating was not the trial, but her life. She was enslaved at age 9 and taken to Cuba, then put aboard the Amistad. Once in America and awaiting resolution of their case (which took several years) Magalu/Sara was converted to Christianity, educated and trained to be a teacher and missionary in Africa. Her actual letters still exist and helped shape the narrative.

The beautiful  ink and watercolor illustrations, by Robert Byrd, are all done in colors, shades and tones that reflect the greens and blues of Africa, the colorful images of Cuba, the darkness of the Amistad, and pastels of dreams and poems, enhancing and extending the story being told.


Although a picture book, the text is for older readers.

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