The day Grace is called from the slave cabins to work in the Big House, Mama makes her promise to keep her eyes down. Uncle Jim warns her to keep her thoughts tucked private in her mind or they could bring a whole lot of trouble and pain.
But the more Grace sees of the heartless Master and hateful Missus, the more a rightiness voice clamors in her head-asking how come white folks can own other people, sell them on the auction block, and separate families forever. When that voice escapes without warning, it sets off a terrible chain of events that prove Uncle Jim's words true. Suddenly, Grace and her family must flee deep into the woods, where they brave deadly animals, slave patrollers, and the uncertainty of ever finding freedom.
With candor and compassion, Ann E. Burg sheds light on a startling chapter of American history--the remarkable story of runaways who sought sanctuary in the Great Dismal Swamp--and creates a powerful testament to the right of every human to be free.
Written in clipped verse, Burg's third novel, after All the Broken Pieces and Serafina's Promise, follows nine-year-old Grace, who is called up from the slave cabins to work in the Big House. Grace's mother warns her to keep her eyes down and her mouth shut, but her youth and strong sense of morality and fairness make it difficult to bite her tongue: "I wonder why/ Master n the Missus/ get to eat right early/ in the morning/ n them what's been workin/ got to wait till/ the midday bell." When Grace talks back to the Missus, causing her mother and younger brothers to be sent to the auction block, Grace and her family flee the plantation and go deep, seeking refuge in the Great Dismal Swamp. Based on historical events and an actual refuge for escaped slaves, the family's journey through the swamp is harrowing, yet Burg's colloquial verse gives Grace a strong, distinct voice, allowing her emotion and determination to shine. Grace's story of familial love, community, and hope is a moving, sensitive read. Ages 9-12. Agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. (Sept.)Copyright 2016 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Gr 4-8--Grace is a light-skinned, blue-eyed slave who is called to work in "The Big House," leaving behind her family and friends in the fields. What she sees of the Master and Missus gives Grace even more motivation to escape, including Missus's decision to sell members of Grace's family at the auction block. Soon, Grace and her family flee to the Great Dismal Swamp and become "maroons" who survive independent of society. This is a historical novel in verse written in a Southern patois. Though some might find the language challenging, strong readers will appreciate the rhythmic flow of the poetry and the well-executed pacing. Shedding light on a period of U.S. history that is often ignored, Burg's portrayal of the Great Dismal Swamp and the runaways' sanctuary reads like a testimony--the book is, in fact, based on narratives of the formerly enslaved. VERDICT This is an ideal selection for classrooms and libraries and would incorporate easily into history and social studies curricula across a wide grade range, from upper elementary through middle school.--Shalini Miskelly, St. Benedict Catholic School, SeattleCopyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.