Sunday, February 12, 2017

Freedom Over Me

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life. Ashley Bryan. 2016. 56 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I mourn the passing of my husband, Cado Fairchilds. He managed our estate alone. Eleven Negro slaves, they carried out the work that made our estate prosper.

Premise/plot: After the death of her husband, Mrs. Fairchilds decides to sell her estate--all of her estate including eleven slaves--and return to Britain. The eleven slaves were: Peggy, John, Athelia, Betty, Qush, Jane, Stephen, Mulvina, Bacus, Charlotte and Dora.

What you should know: Ashley Bryans, the author and illustrator, was inspired to write this picture book by slave documents he'd acquired. This estates appraisal dates from 1828. This picture book is written almost exclusively in verse. The book begins with Mrs. Fairchilds poem, her reasoning as to why she's selling the slaves and leaving the South. The remaining poems are all from the point of view of the eleven slaves. Each slave gets two poems. One poem for how things are; one poem for their dreams, how they want things to be.

From John:
Secretly, Stephen and Jane
are teaching me to read and write.
They say, "We'll be free one day!
And you will teach others."
My thoughts of escaping
to freedom
grow stronger every day.
Oh Freedom, Oh Freedom,
Oh Freedom over me!
From John Dreams:
I plan one day
to draw freely
from free Negro people.
I will create
loving portraits
of their strength
and beauty.
 You should also know that this is a Newbery Honor book, a Coretta Scott King Author Honor book, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book.

My thoughts: Freedom Over Me is worth reading no matter your age. (By that I mean you're never too old to read a 'children's book.' You can definitely be too young for a book, but never too old.) It would pair well with Julius Lester's Day of Tears--if memory serves--or his To Be A Slave. This is such compelling, emotional book.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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