Unbound by Ann E. Burg

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: A family who escaped slavery and their journey to join the colony of maroons in the middle of Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp to live freely.

What made me pick it up: A coworker came down to tell me she was working on her book talk for it and I realized I had read the author’s previous work (Serafina’s Promise) and love a novel in verse so I took it from her when she offered and checked it out.

My favorite things: This book is powerful. The verse nature of the writing makes it go very quickly. The first-person narration helps bring to life the experience of slavery for Grace. As someone who once was a nine-year-old who had trouble keeping her thoughts in her head and not saying whatever she thought, it really brought home how that once had much worse consequences. I could relate to all of Grace’s emotions — especially guilt. Even though you are fairly certain of the outcome, it’s still an edge-of-your-seat read as Grace and her family flee for their lives.

Who it’s great for: Anyone who wants to learn more about a lesser known group of runaway slaves/slave settlement. Readers who want an emotional portrayal of the slavery and runaway experience.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Get this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.


 

Never Caught by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Never Caught tells the story of Ona Judge’s time as a woman enslaved by George Washington, her escape from the President’s home, and the rest of her life as a fugitive.

What made me pick it up: I first read about Ona Judge in the YALSA Nonfiction Award Finalist In the Shadow of Liberty by Kenneth Davis. When I saw an entire book dedicated to her I knew I needed to know more.

My favorite things: This is a compelling read that is never dry. Dunbar seamlessly weaves Judge’s own account with other recorded details from history to create a well contextualized and more comprehensive report. Dunbar repeatedly reminds her readers that no matter how “good” or “kind” slaveholders were or tried to be toward the people they enslaved, those that they considered property would choose freedom of any kind every time they could.

Who it’s great for: Teens and adults interested in learning more about the reality of slavery and the lives of the fugitives who escaped during the early days of the United States. Readers who struggle to engage with nonfiction and history will appreciate Dunbar’s style of narrative nonfiction.

Abby’s rating: four-shells


Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or see if it’s available at a library near you.


Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: This book depicts the lives, assigned job duties, and hopes and dreams of 11 slaves. It is particularly riveting because it is based on historical documents. It was awarded a Newbery Honor this year as well as a Coretta Scott King Honor for Author.

What made me pick it up: Abby had it checked out, and it caught my eye. I read it on my dinner break.

My favorite things: This book is a good introduction to slavery for younger readers. It includes details of slaves lives without getting too graphic. It has bright colors and exceptional illustrations.

Who it’s great for: Kids who want to explore the topic of slavery.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or see if it’s available at a library near you.


 

YALSA Nonfiction Award Finalists

Toward the end of every year, YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) releases a shortlist of titles for the Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. The winner is announced at the ALA Youth Media Awards in January. This year’s winner was John Lewis’ March:Book Three. Here’s a quick rundown of the other titles that made the list of finalists.

What made me pick them up: Each year I try to read all of the finalists before the winner is announced, but this year I’m running a little behind.

Hillary Rodham Clinton:  A Woman Living History by Karen Blumenthal

What it’s about: This book follows Hillary Clinton’s life and political career through the beginning of her 2016 Presidential campaign.

My favorite things: I appreciated that the author didn’t shy away from the controversies that have popped up throughout her life and career. Blumenthal effectively explains many of the difficulties and criticisms Clinton has faced throughout her career and how she has worked to overcome them.

Who it’s great for: Teens and adults who want to know more about Clinton’s life and career leading up to her history making campagin as the first woman to be nominated for president by a major party.

Abby’s rating:  four-shells

In the Shadow of Liberty:  The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives by Kenneth C. Davis

What it’s about: Davis presents the lives of five enslaved people and the four presidents who counted them as property.

My favorite things: There’s a very powerful section at the beginning where Davis names several beloved founding fathers and their contributions to the nation, and then lists how many enslaved people they owned. He does an incredible job throughout the book of highlighting the complexities of slavery in early American history and pointing out the inconsistencies in the words and actions of the men who designed the nation.

Who it’s good for:  Teens interested in concrete examples of the contradictions between the rhetoric of liberty and the reality of slavery during the early days of the United States.

Abby’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells

Samurai Rising:  The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune  by Pamela S. Turner.  

What it’s about: This traces the early years of samurai rule in Japan by following the life of Minamoto Yoshitsune.

My favorite things: This is a really fun, and often funny, look into the history of samurai rule in Japan. Turner blends storytelling and historical accounts for an exciting peek into the life of a Japanese legend: Minamoto Yoshitsune, the “ultimate samurai”.

Who it’s good for: Teens interested in learning about Japanese history and samurai culture. Reluctant nonfiction readers who need an action packed story to maintain interest.

Abby’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells

This Land is Our Land:  A History of American Immigration  by Linda Barrett Osborne

What it’s about: A concise history of immigration into the United States.

My favorite things: Osborne looks at more than immigration statistics. She considers the lived experience of immigrating to the United States by examining the restrictions and hostile attitudes that have targeted various immigrant groups throughout the nation’s history.

Who it’s good for: Teens and adults who want to understand the history of immigration policies and why it is such a divisive issue.

Abby’s rating: four-shells