Unbound: A Novel in Verse

by Ann E Burg (Author)

Unbound: A Novel in Verse
Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

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.

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Publishers Weekly

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.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

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, Seattle

Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Praise for Unbound: A Novel in Verse:

* "A combination of historical precision, honesty, and adventure . . .Beautifully done." — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* "[S]trong readers will appreciate the rhythmic flow of the poetry and the well-executed pacing . . . This is an ideal selection for classrooms and libraries and would incorporate easily into history and social studies curricula across a wide grade range." — School Library Journal, starred review

Awards and Praise for All the Broken Pieces

Jefferson Cup award winner

Booklist Editors' Choice

ALA Best Books for Young Adults

IRA Notable Book for a Global Society

ALA Popular Paperback for Young Adults

*"[A] stirring debut novel . . . will make readers want to rush to the end and then return to the beginning again to make connections between past, present, friends and enemies."—Booklist, starred review

*"The verse form carries highly charged emotions and heavy content with elegiac simplicity." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

*"Using spare free verse, first-time novelist Burg beautifully evokes the emotions of a Vietnamese adoptee as he struggles to come to terms with his past." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"...the story is a lovely, moving one." —School Library Journal

Awards and Praise for Serafina's Promise

Starred review from Kirkus Reviews and School Library Journal

Kirkus Best Book of the Year

Parents' Choice Gold Award winner

School Library Journal Best Books of the Year

New York Public Library 100 Books for Giving and Sharing

The Herald-Sun Wilde Award for Longer books, Middle grade novel

Cybils Awards Finalists, Middle Grade Fiction

NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Literary Work-Youth/Teens nominee

ALA Notable Book

ALA Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies

Michigan Great Lakes Great Books Award nominee

Bank Street College Children's Book Committee - Best Children's Books of the Year

Américas Award, Commended Title

Kansas' William Allen White Award

"Serafina's dreams are challenged by poverty, flood, and earthquake, but her tenacious spirit hangs on through it all. The grace of the Haitian people is revealed in Burg's poetic language, the vastness of Haiti's needs apparent in the details of Serafina's world. Serafina's journey is one readers will find unsettling but, at the same time, rich with examples of true courage and dignity." —Karen Hesse, author of the Newbery Medal winner Out of the Dust and Safekeeping

"Serafina is certainly a resilient and admirable character who will touch the hearts of many adults as well as children and put a human face on the poverty and tragedies of the Haitian people. Through this story, Ann extends the reputation she established with All the Broken Pieces." —Don Gallo

"Ann E. Burg has masterfully crafted a lovingly cadenced book in which, behind each gemlike story, another gemlike story rises, synchronizing poetically with the local landscape, where there is another mountain behind each mountain. Serafina's Promise, a fascinating poetic tale, a magic window that opens gently and brings to your heart the cultural richness and wonders of a fate-taunting nation." —Denize Lauture
Ann E Burg
Ann Burg's debut novel, All the Broken Pieces, was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a Jefferson Cup award winner and an IRA Notable Book for a Global Society, among its many honors. All of her subsequent novels in verse have garnered multiple awards and starred reviews. Serafina's Promise was named an ALA Notable, a Parents' Choice Gold Award Winner, and an NAACP Image Award finalist. Unbound was the winner of the New-York Historical Society Children's History Book Prize, the Christopher Award, and an Arnold Adoff Poetry Honor. Flooded was a Bank Street College Claudia Lewis Award winner, a Bank Street College Best Children's Book (with outstanding merit), and a Junior Library Guild selection. Burg worked as an English teacher for ten years before becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Rhinebeck, New York, with her family. Visit her online at annburg.com.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Scholastic Press
Publication date
August 20, 2018
BISAC categories
JUV011010 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JUV057000 - Juvenile Fiction | Stories in Verse (see also Poetry)
JUV039120 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Prejudice & Racism
JUV016200 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | United States - Civil War Period (1850-1877)
Library of Congress categories
African Americans
United States
Family life
Novels in verse
Historical fiction
Southern states
African American families
Fugitive slaves
Dismal Swamp (N.C. and Va.)

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