Title: Freedom Crossing
Author: Margaret Goff Clark
Description: Little Miss and I read Freedom Crossing by Margaret Goff Clark for her history/literature curriculum in the months of December and January. It is a Scholastic book published for children from 8 and up.
The book takes place in the mid-1800s, prior to the Civil War, and is about a young girl named Laura who moves back home with her brother and father, several years after the death of her mother. Originally she was sent to live with her aunt and uncle in the South, where slavery was a normal part of life. Her father asks for her to come home again, but once there she doesn’t know where she fits in.
The book opens with her father being gone on a business trip and her being home alone with her brother Bert when a young man named Joel, who Laura knew from her childhood shows up late at night. With him is a young African American boy, named Martin, who she soon learns is a runaway slave. Even more shocking to her is the fact her brother, father, and Joel are all part of the Underground Railroad and are planning to help Martin escape to Canada to join his family. Helping runaway slaves leave their masters and escape to freedom is something Laura’s family has been involved in for months now and she doesn’t know how to feel about it.
In her aunt and uncle’s home, African Americans were treated as slaves, but they were not treated cruelly. Being a slave isn’t that bad, is it? She doesn’t think so and at first, she refuses to help her brother and childhood friend smuggle the young boy to freedom. She wants to wait for her father to come home, but there’s no time. Martin needs to be taken to a meet-up location with other members of the Underground Railroad within a couple of days and their father won’t be home before then.
As slave hunters close in, Laura has to decide if she wants to obey the law in place that will send anyone to jail who helps a runaway slave or bring Martin to freedom.
Freedom Crossing is full of action, but also lessons. It teaches young children about the horrors and sadness of slavery without being graphic or too dark. Through Laura’s confusion and reluctance to help her family, children learn how easy it was at that time to believe slavery was normal. As the book progresses, though, it becomes clear that Laura is misguided in her understanding of what slavery truly is.
The reader is educated at the same time as Laura not only about how dehumanizing slavery was (and is) but how important the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement were to help thousands of slaves find freedom from abusive masters. Thanks to the nail-biting action in the book, it can be easy to forget the book is aimed at giving young readers a history lesson. In the end, though, the book uses the story of Martin, Laura, Bert, and Joel to make sure young people know the true story of slavery in the United States and the movement by many to put an end to it.
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