Chains (Seeds of America #1)

by Laurie Halse Anderson (Author)

Chains (Seeds of America #1)
Reading Level: 6th − 7th Grade
If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight...for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

From acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson comes this compelling, impeccably researched novel that shows the lengths we can go to cast off our chains, both physical and spiritual.
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Publishers Weekly

Starred Review
Pursuing similar themes as M.T. Anderson's "Octavian Nothing", this gripping novel offers readers a startlingly provocative view of the Revolutionary War. Isabel Finch, the narrator, and her five-year-old sister, Ruth, are to be freed from slavery upon the death of their mistress in Rhode Island, but the mistress's unscrupulous heir easily persuades the local pastor to dispense with reading the will. Before long Isabel and Ruth are in New York City, the property of a Loyalist couple, whose abusiveness inspires Isabel to a dangerous course: she steals into the Patriot army camp to trade a crucial Loyalist secret in exchange for passage to Rhode Island for herself and Ruth. But not only does the Patriot colonel fail to honor his promise, he personally hands her over to her Loyalist mistress when she runs away, to face disastrous consequences. Anderson ("Speak"; "Fever 1793") packs so much detail into her evocation of wartime New York City that readers will see the turmoil and confusion of the times, and her solidly researched exploration of British and Patriot treatment of slaves during a war for freedom is nuanced and evenhanded, presented in service of a fast-moving, emotionally involving plot. Ages 10up. "(Oct.)" Copyright 2008 Publishers Weekly Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 610Set in New York City at the beginning of the American Revolution, "Chains" addresses the price of freedom both for a nation and for individuals. Isabel tells the story of her life as a slave. She was sold with her five-year-old sister to a cruel Loyalist family even though the girls were to be free upon the death of their former owner. She has hopes of finding a way to freedom and becomes a spy for the rebels, but soon realizes that it is difficult to trust anyone. She chooses to find someone to help her no matter which side he or she is on. With short chapters, each beginning with a historical quote, this fast-paced novel reveals the heartache and struggles of a country and slave fighting for freedom. The characters are well developed, and the situations are realistic. An author's note gives insight into issues surrounding the Revolutionary War and the fight for the nation's freedom even though 20 percent of its people were in chains. Well researched and affecting in its presentation, the story offers readers a fresh look at the conflict and struggle of a developing nation."Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD" Copyright 2008 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Laurie Halse Anderson
Laurie Halse Anderson has received both the Margaret Edwards Award and the ALAN Award for her contributions to young adult literature. She has also been honored by the National Coalition Against Censorship in recognition of her fight to combat the censoring of literature. She is the author of the groundbreaking National Book Award finalist and Printz Honor Book Speak. She is also author of the critically acclaimed YA books Prom, Twitsted, Catalyst, Wintergirls, and The Impossible Knife of Memory. She has also authored a number of middle grade titles including The Vet Volunteers series, and the historical fiction Seeds of America Trilogy, which includes Forge, ALA Best Book for Young Adults Fever 1793, and the National Book Award finalist and Scott O'Dell Award-winner Chains. She and her husband live in northern New York State. Follow Laurie on Twitter @halseanderson and visit her at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date
January 20, 2010
Seeds of America Trilogy
BISAC categories
JUV011010 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JUV016120 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | United States - Colonial & Revolutionary Periods
Library of Congress categories
African Americans
New York (N.Y.)
United States
Revolution, 1775-1783
National Book Awards
Finalist 2008 - 2008
Parents Choice Awards (Fall) (2008-Up)
Gold Medal Winner 2008 - 2008
Scott O Dell Award for Historical Fiction
Winner 2009 - 2009
Grand Canyon Reader Award
Nominee 2011 - 2011
Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens
Recommended 2009 - 2009
Charlotte Award
Nominee 2010 - 2010
Volunteer State Book Awards
Nominee 2010 - 2011
Tayshas Reading
Commended 2010 - 2010
Nutmeg Book Award
Nominee 2011 - 2011
Carnegie Medal
Nominee 2010 - 2010
Massachusetts Children's Book Award
Nominee 2010 - 2011
Rhode Island Teen Book Award
Nominee 2011 - 2011
Beehive Awards
Nominee 2011 - 2011
Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award
Nominee 2010 - 2010
South Carolina Childrens, Junior and Young Adult Book Award
Nominee 2010 - 2011
Young Reader's Choice Award
Nominee 2011 - 2011
West Virginia Children's Book Award
Fourth Place 2011 - 2011
Winner 2009 - 2009
Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award
Nominee 2011 - 2011
Georgia Children's Book Award
Nominee 2012 - 2012
Golden Sower Award
Nominee 2011 - 2011
Iowa Teen Award
Nominee 2013 - 2013

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