Friday, July 27, 2012
Happiness is...a good book (Summer Reading edition #25)
Author: Elisa Carbone
Narrator: Robin Miles
Age Range: 9-12
Genre: Historical Fiction
Cover Score: ***
Overall Score: ***
First Sentence: (I don't remember!)
Thirteen-year-old Anne-Marie Weems is living a rather decent life for a southern slave in 1854. Her family resides in a home together in Maryland. Her father is free while the rest of them work for the Prices, an Irish family who mostly treat them well until drought hits, the master's crops fail and his gambling debts mount. Soon her older brothers are sold to slave holders in Alabama and the family fears they will never be together again. Before the rest of the family can be separated the Underground Railroad and the Vigilance Committee step in. Her mother and sister's freedoms are purchased but the Prices refuse to let Anne go. She reluctantly moves with them to Rockville where she takes charge of their young niece who inadvertently teaches Anne to read and meets Alfred, a handsome slave who lives in town. But a plan is in the works to steal her to freedom and one night she is taken from her bed to begin a long and arduous journey north. Strangers risk everything to help her along the way. First she spends months in hiding in Washington, DC in the home of a priest. Her mother, father and sister are living just down the street yet no one knows she is there until just before it is time for her to leave again. Next she is disguised as a boy to make the journey to Canada where she is reconnected with an aunt and uncle and begins a new life as a free person.
I loved that you got to see more into the inner workings of the Underground Railroad, aside from just running and brief shelters in the dead of night. The author introduces you to black, white, slave and free characters who all take part in the journey (some aren't much more than mercenaries while others are involved for the obvious moral reasons) including people in other countries who donated funds to purchase freedoms when possible or to assist the cause by purchasing food, clothing and such.
Anne is young enough to have questions and not always understand what is going on but makes a lot of growth throughout the story. She faces very adult situations and circumstances with just the right combination of naivete and street smarts to be believable and sympathetic.
I actually listened to this one as an audio book (hence the lack of first sentence above) and was pleased with the narrator. She spoke clearly and conversationally (sometimes they are so slow and precise it drives me bonkers to try and listen!) She was no Jim Dale but she adopted voice changes to distinguish between characters and convincing accents (Irish, southern) when applicable. Definitely recommended.