Run for It: Stories of Slaves Who Fought for Their Freedom by Marcelo D’Salete

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Title: Run for It: Stories of Slaves Who Fought for Their Freedom by Marcelo D’Salete

Premise:

This book contains four short stories about slavery in Brazil and the way that slaves resisted it to the best of their ability.  Chapters include: Kalunga, Sumidouro, Cumbe, and Malungo.

My thoughts:

This was an interesting read, and I’m still not sure exactly how to process it.  It’s a story told mostly in pictures with minimal text, and you really have to read between the lines and study the pictures to know what is happening.  It’s not really a book about right and wrong.  Readers are shown some very difficult situations and experiences, and how people reacted under those circumstances.  Sometimes violence begets violence.  The stories don’t have warm, cushy endings.  However, they do show the resilience of those who languished under slavery and their determination to be free from oppression.  It shines a glaring light on the moral corruption which accompanies slavery.

Certainly, you have to read the two short introductory blurbs at the beginning of the book to get the context for the stories.  Even then, there is a lot of background information which isn’t included.  I wish there had been a bit more about Brazil’s history with slavery, but maybe this book could be seen as a jumping off point for readers to seek out additional sources.

The drawings are in black and white, so even in the scenes with violence you don’t see graphic blood or anything.  Also, the drawings are somewhat stylized, so things that might be too much if done with a lot of detail are less offensive to look at.

I recommend Run For It to older teens and adults who want to learn more about slavery and resistance.  It wasn’t just an issue in the United States, but that’s where a lot of the currently available literature takes place.  Also a note on the possible objection of seeing a woman’s bare chest–this book adopts the traditional African view of a woman’s chest being utilitarian more than erotic.  It’s for feeding children and there’s nothing shameful or sexually charged in that.

Possible Objections:

  • Some violence
  • Bare women’s chests
  • A couple of rape scenes (not graphic)

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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4 Favorite Children’s Books #2

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Here are more of our favorite children’s books coming your way!  Are any of these your favorites, too?

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

This book is an absolutely charming collection of poems which celebrate childhood.  Some of the phrases are dated–such as when it talks about getting dressed by candlelight, but most of the poems talk about things that are familiar to all children.  You can find many different versions of this book, so it might be best to find one with illustrations that you particularly enjoy.

My Truck Is Stuck! by Kevin Lewis & Daniel Kirk

My boys really liked this book when they were younger.  A truck that is hauling a load of bones gets stuck in a giant pothole.  As a whole series of vehicles driven by dogs lines up to help pull get the stuck truck out, a bunch of wily prairie dogs take the bones from the truck.  It’s a cute and simple rhyming book that helps small children learn their numbers.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle

Eric Carle’s illustrations are one-of-a-kind and they are what really make this book special (okay, they’re what make all of his books special).  The simple text and colorful pictures help kids learn their colors.  Our kids can recite the book by memory now–they’ve read it so many times!

Tea Cakes for Tosh by Kelly Starling Lyons

Tosh learns about the history of his grandma’s delicious tea cakes recipe.  His great-great-great-great grandma made them when she was a slave, and she would occasionally sneak them to her kids.  The tea cakes helped remind her children to look forward to the day when their people would be free.  When Tosh’s grandma starts forgetting things, it is up to him to carry on the family’s tea cakes story and tradition.

Booker T. Washington: Great American Educator by Eric Braun

booker-t-washington

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Booker T. Washington is another educational graphic novel for kids which I found at the library.  I’ll just keep ’em coming as I find them!

Premise:

In graphic novel form, readers learn about the life of Booker T. Washington.  He was born into slavery in Virginia and gained his freedom after the Civil War.  Booker worked tirelessly at the Tuskegee Institute to provide African Americans with the chance to get an education and better their lot in life.  He also secretly fought to gain equal rights for African Americans throughout the United States.

My thoughts:

As you already know, I am loving these historical graphic novels for kids!  It would seem that I read them just as much as the kids do.  I read Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.  So I was curious to see which parts of his life they would highlight in this short kids book.

Booker’s life in slavery is only given a cursory glance and then it jumps right into his life after slavery–mainly focusing on his activities at the Tuskegee Institute.  I agree with his view that both the pursuit of knowledge and training in practical pursuits are important.  While it was wonderful that he advocated for equal educational opportunities for African Americans, he also recognized that in the workforce they would still be mostly relegated to jobs consisting mainly of physical labor.  At Tuskegee they taught students hands-on skills such as bricklaying, carpentry, sewing, and printing.  Of course the students also studied more cerebral subjects such as math, science, and history.  Booker was willing to work within the social confines of his time to set the groundwork for a better life for the next generation of African Americans.

I recommend Booker T. Washington: Great American Educator to families who want to give their kids a fun way to learn about history.  This book is a fairly innocuous introduction to the life of Booker T. Washington, which spares you any of the more unpleasant details. As your kids get older, they will want to read some more in-depth books about Booker T.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale

underground-abductor

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I requested The Underground Abductor from the library as part of my quest to find interesting graphic novels for children.  I could not put this one down!  I didn’t know much about Harriet Tubman, but now I want to find some adult books to learn more.

Premise:

Araminta Ross was born a slave, but she dreamed of freedom for herself and her family.  She escaped to the North and later, as Harriet Tubman, returned for her family.  In her journeys she led many others to freedom on the Underground Railroad, met Frederick Douglass and John Brown, and worked as a spy during the Civil War.  Harriet Tubman became a legend in her time, known as “General Moses” for her unequivocal success in leading her people to freedom.

My thoughts:

I absolutely loved this book!  Araminta (better known as Harriet Tubman) was an amazing young woman who was born into slavery in Maryland.  She worked hard and eventually made plans to secure her freedom.  When she found out that she was going to be sold and would not be able to buy her own freedom, she made the decision to run away to the North.  Harriet was successful and had started to settle into a new life, but when she heard about “The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850”, she knew that she had to get her family to freedom sooner rather than later.

Harriet made many trips into the South to bring her family (and many others) to freedom.  Because of a head injury she received as a child, Harriet suffered from narcolepsy and during these sleep episodes she would see visions from God.  These visions helped guide her on the many dangerous trips she took, and alerted her to dangers along the way.

Harriet also aided the North during the civil war, acting as nurse, spy and consultant.  During one particular episode, she helped lead about 800 slaves to freedom in one night, when she aided Colonel Montgomery and his Jayhawkers.

Amazingly, Harriet Tubman survived all of the dangers she faced throughout her life and eventually settled with her family in Auburn, New York.  Her dedication, drive, and courage are an amazing example to all of us.  When there is something worth fighting for, don’t give up.

I recommend this book to kids who enjoy graphic novels and would prefer to learn about history through that medium.  This particular book is best suited to elementary-age children up to teens.

Possible Objections:

  • Violence (though the illustrations are not graphic)

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

12 Years a Slave – Movie 2013

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I finally got around to watching 12 Years a Slave, the movie adaptation of the book by the same name.  The first two copies which I requested from the library were scratched, so I couldn’t watch the entire movie.  Copy number three was the charm.

Just to review, this is the story of Solomon Northup, a free man from New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South.  If you want to know more about the specifics of the story, check out my book review.  The movie follows the book quite closely.  There were a few changes, most of them minor and not detracting from the main story at all.  Of course some things needed to be condensed to keep the length of the movie reasonable.  A benefit to watching the movie over the book is that you lose the old-fashioned language in which the book is written.  The movie emphasizes the events, so you don’t get bogged down with the dated and sometimes awkward language.

My thoughts:

I think that this movie was done wonderfully well.  It’s such a heartbreaking story and that is exactly what it does to you when you watch it–it breaks your heart.  The actors were phenomenal–even the ones you hate do a great job in their role.  Chiwetel Ejiofor, the actor who played Solomon was amazing.  I fully felt that he was Solomon and thought that he conveyed the complex feelings of the character realistically.

There are a few things I should warn you about if you are thinking of seeing this movie.  The dehumanizing and violent treatment of the slaves is very disturbing.  There are a few scenes of graphic violence which show blood spraying and the skin split open from whippings.  There are also a couple of hanging scenes.  I had to unfocus my eyes a few times because I couldn’t bear to just sit there and look at that for more than a couple of seconds.

12 Years a Slave is emotionally raw and it will leave you feeling that way by the end of the movie.  Of course I cried.  You’d have to be a stone not to.  Although it’s painful to watch this type of movie, I think it’s our duty to try and more fully understand the history of our country–even the ugly parts.  We have to learn from our past mistakes.

I highly recommend this movie to adults.

Possible Objections:

  • Nudity
  • A couple of sexual scenes
  • Foul language, including racial epithets
  • Violence, some of it quite graphic

Rated: R

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

 

OTHER 12 YEARS A SLAVE POSTS:

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

12 Years Slave - WM

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Twelve Years a Slave is the final book in my Rainbow Cover Reading Challenge!  I am so excited to give away the books from this challenge to one lucky winner–so stay tuned!

I was really looking forward to reading this book because I’ve been studying slavery and other social justice issues since I was a child.  For some reason, those difficult subjects have always fascinated me.  I had never heard of Solomon Northup, nor seen the recent movie that is based on this book.

First, you should know that this book uses old-fashioned language.  That’s just something that you’ll have to get used to.  The words may not flow off your tongue like melted butter, but you should really stick with it because of how truly fascinating the story is.

Second, you will notice that this story seems to be choked with minute details that wouldn’t really be necessary for simply telling the story.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, Solomon had to establish his right in representing the true state of slavery by proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that his story was undeniably true.  All of the small details in the book are facts that could be checked and corroborated.  Additionally, Solomon published this book a short time after he was rescued from captivity, hoping that by sharing his story he could educate people about the truth of slavery.  (Remember, at this time there were people who actually believed that the slave preferred his state of bondage to a life of freedom.)  As a free, educated colored man, he had a unique perspective to offer.  He had been accustomed to freedom, then that freedom was stripped from him and he was forced to endure slavery.  Twelve years later he was restored to freedom again.  Upon his return, he could give utterance to the true state of slavery in an observant, introspective, and educated manner.  He could speak to whites at the time on an equal footing (at least intellectually).  So, while the details may get tedious and seem irrelevant at times, they served a very specific purpose when the book was written.

I must say that I really enjoyed this book.  I didn’t enjoy reading about the hardships and injustices, but I appreciated learning about Solomon’s experiences.  Mainly he shares events and information about his daily life in a matter-of-fact tone.  He also shares the things he felt and what others said.  The reader is expected to arrive at their own conclusion as to whether or not slavery is a just institution.  I appreciate that Solomon appealed to the reader to take what they had read and consult their own conscience about what was fair or not.

A couple of my favorite quotes:

“They left me in the cabin, that I might rest.  Blessed be sleep!  It visiteth all alike, descending as the dews of heaven on the bond and free.  Soon it nestled to my bosom, driving away the troubles that oppressed it, and bearing me to that shadowy region, where I saw again the faces, and listened to the voices of my children, who, alas, for aught I knew in my waking hours, had fallen into the arms of that other sleep, from which they never would arouse.” (p. 94)

“‘If I was in New-England,’ returned Bass, ‘I would be just what I am here.  I would say that Slavery was an iniquity, and ought to be abolished.  I would say there was no reason nor justice in the law, or the constitution that allows one man to hold another man in bondage.  It would be hard for you to lose your property, to be sure, but it wouldn’t be half as hard as it would be to lose your liberty.  You have no more right to your freedom, in exact justice, than Uncle Abram yonder.  Talk about black skin, and black blood; why, how many slaves are there on this bayou as white as either of us?  And what difference is there in the color of the soul?  Pshaw! the whole system is as absurd as it is cruel.'” (p. 179)

Because of the subject matter and language, I would suggest this book for teens and up.

Possible Objections:

  • A lot of violence
  • Racial epithets
  • Bad language — mostly the d-word
  • Some talk of sexual exploitation

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori