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May 2023

A fictional book, based on the real-life Iqbal Mashih.  As a child, Iqbal was forced into slavery in a carpet factory.  He escaped and dedicated the rest of his life as a free child to helping other children escape.  This is a short, powerful book.   Although it’s supposed to be for children ages 8-12, I would use caution when reading it with younger children.  It gives a very accurate portrayal of modern day slavery, and deals with issues that could be very frightening for children.  With some care, it would be an excellent addition to a discussion of freedom, courage and slavery.

47 by Walter Mosley

23rd January 2006

47This book is one of the strangest books that I have ever read. It’s an unexpected combination of historical fiction with fantasy. The first four chapters tell the story of young slave number 47, who has lived on a cotton plantation for his entire life. But then he meets Tall John and his whole world changes. John introduces the concepts of equality and freedom to 47, and begins to open up a whole new world for him. Then things get strange. There are visions, space crafts, aliens, healing potions, invisibility lights, time travel, near death experiences. . . You name it and this book has it. I love the theme of true freedom that is woven through the book, but the whole fantasy aspect of the book is just too confusing.

Rosetta, Rosetta, Sit by Me!A fictionalized biography of Frederick Douglas’ daughter, Rosetta. Douglas was a former slave who became a strong advocate for equality. He believed that his children should have the right to attend any school they chose, and worked fervently to secure a quality education for them.

A quick read that really personalizes the struggle for integrated education. The way that Rosetta and her family dealt with such prejudice, and the value they place on education, is admirable.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (Newbery Honor Book)Turner Buckminster moves to a small town in Maine, where his father is the new pastor. In spite of the beauty of the town, Turner is miserable in his role as “the minister’s boy.” Then he meets Lizzie, who lives on nearby Malaga Island. The islanders are former slaves who have very little money, and the townspeople wish they would leave. Turner and Lizzie become good friends, in spite of their differences. Soon the townspeople are plotting to send away the islanders, and Turner must decide how to help.

This book was written by a Calvin prof-Gary D. Schmidt. I generally enjoy his books, and this was no exception. There were some “new-ageish” components involving whales and the ocean, which seemed quite important to the author and the main character. I choose to skim those sections and focus more on the history of Malaga Island and on how Turner changed as he learned to stand up for what is right.

A fictional journal of Catherine Cabot Hall. Takes place in the early 1830’s on a farm in New Hampshire. Catherine lives with her father and sister, and must cope with her father’s remarriage, a death and a runaway slave. The language is very archaic, and the story is told entirely in journal format, which was hard to read at first. Once I got used to the style, the book was very good.

A small part of the story which was of special interest to me was when Catherine’s school teacher was told what he could and could not teach during school hours. The teacher wrote a very humble apology to the community for reading newspaper articles about slavery to the students.