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Posts Tagged «slavery»

The Invention of Wings

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

web1_Invention-of-Wingsby Sue Monk Kidd, 373 pages, Adult audience

Sarah, the daughter of a plantation owner and slave master, is unusual for her time and place. She believes the African Americans enslaved on her father’s plantation are people and should not be owned. Unfortunately the rest of her family does not feel the same way she does, in fact, her mother is determined to bring her around to the “correct” way of thinking and presents her with the “gift” of an enslaved girl she calls Hettie on her birthday. Sarah tries not to accept the gift without success.

Hettie is a slave name, but Handfull is what her people call her. Handfull’s mother is the cook for Sarah’s family and lives in the house as well. Handfull worries about her mother because, in Handfull’s opinion, she takes too many risks; these risks have ended in terrible physical abuse and Handfull can’t take seeing her mother suffer like that. Sarah learns Handfull’s real name and wants to teach her how to read; Handfull’s mother encourages this seeing that the benefits of knowledge outweigh the risks of getting caught. For enslaved people punishments are so violent and grave it is hard to imagine how anyone can be so brave; these women know that being enslaved in body and mind is far worse than any physical abuse that might befall them. Freedom is the goal at any cost.

If you enjoy historical fiction about American History you might also enjoy: Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson, or The Mighty Miss Malone, by Christopher Paul Curtis, or Uprising, by Margaret Peterson Haddix

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass

Friday, March 29th, 2013

by Russell Freedman, 119 pages, Grades 5-9

“‘He was the architect of his own fortune, a self-made man,’ Douglass wrote of Lincoln.  He had ‘ascended high but with hard hands and honest work build the ladder on which he climbed’ –  words that Douglass, as he was aware, could easily have applied to himself” (Freedman 103).

 

Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln had a lot in common:  they both grew up poor and uneducated, they both taught themselves because they greatly desired knowledge, and they both wanted to end the practice of slavery in the United States.  They were also very different men: Douglass was born a slave, Lincoln was born free, Douglass had to spend the first part of his life tortured and enslaved, and though Lincoln’s family was poor and he had to work hard he was never tortured.  Douglass and Lincoln also had different approaches to the problem of slavery, but they respected one another greatly even when they did not agree.

 

Freedman’s book is not only interesting, but also an easy read; you feel compelled to continue reading every word as though it were a suspenseful novel keeping you on the edge of your seat.

 

If you enjoy nonfiction, you might also like other books by Russell Freedman like:  The War to End All Wars, Who Was First:  Discovering the Americas, or The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marion Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights.  

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Jefferson’s Sons

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Jeffersons-Sons-Coverby Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, 360 pages, Grades 6-9

History shows that Thomas Jefferson had a second family with one of the women enslaved on his plantation.  Sally Hemings was the mother of four of Thomas Jefferson’s children:  Beverly, Harriet, Madison and Eston.  
Bradley’s work of historical fiction uses the president’s sons, Beverly, Madison and Eston, as narrators.  Each eleven year old boy tells his part of the story, so the novel, in three parts, is an adolescent’s point of view.
There are many things that happen on the plantation that are scary and frustrating for the enslaved people who live there; almost nothing is in their control. It is clear that Jefferson’s children are given special privileges for enslaved people: music lessons, work in the house instead of in the field, etc, but, in the end, they are still trapped and controlled by their white master.  The children are never allowed to refer to Jefferson as daddy or papa, but he has promised each of them freedom when they come of age.  Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings hope that those children who are light complected can pass into white society and improve their situations.  This would mean never seeing their mother again; whites and blacks did not freely associate in those days. And what about the children who cannot pass for white?  Will Jefferson’s sons find freedom and find better lives off the plantation?
If you enjoy historical fiction books about people struggling for justice you might also enjoy Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan, or Homeless Bird, by Gloria Whelan.

The Poet Slave of Cuba

Friday, September 24th, 2010

poet slaveBy Margarita Engle, Art by Sean Qualls    p. 183  – Grades 7-12 – biography

Trapped as a slave in a wealthy home in Cuba, Juan Francisco Manzano lived his life in fear of the cruel punishments of his masters.  This sad and harrowing story was uncovered because the young slave,  Manzano, wrote vivid poetry that describes his time as a slave.   In Cuba poetry is like television; many people perform poetry for others and stories are often carried across the country because people repeat the poems they have heard.  It is for this reason that the author, Margarita Engle, was inspired to write this biography in verse, paying tribute to Manzano’s work.  While enslaved Manzano could not stop creating poems in his head; sometimes his owners praised him for his creativity and other times he was severely punished.  The poems were part of Manzano and came to him as naturally as breathing; no punishment, no matter how harsh, could stop him from being himself.

Connections:  For other serious stories in verse try Aleutian Sparrow or Out of the Dust, both by Karen Hesse.  For stories about people escaping oppression try 5,000 Miles to Freedom: Ellen and William Craft’s Flight From Slavery, by Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin, or The Year of Impossible Goodbyes, by Sook Nyul Choi.

The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

firefly lettersBy Margarita Engle, 151 pages  Grades 6 Up

In this novel-in-verse told in three voices, inspired by the diaries and letters of 19th century suffragette, Frederika Bremer, we learn about the many barriers women faced in Cuba.  Frederika visits Cuba from Sweden and stays with a wealthy family whose daughter, Elena seems more confined by her society’s expectations for women than the family’s slave, Cecilia who travels with Frederika as her interpreter.

Connections:  For other novels in verse, try reading Love that Dog by Sharon Creech or Out of the Dust or Witness by Karen Hesse.

Crows & Cards

Friday, February 26th, 2010

crows and cardsby Joseph Helgerson   p. 279   Grades:  6-8

Twelve-year-old Zebulon Crabtree is angry with his father for shipping  him off on a Mississippi riverboat to St. Louis to become a tanner’s apprentice.  He quickly decides to disobey his dad when  Chilly Larpenteur, a cardshark and con man, tricks him out of his money and convinces Zeb to join his racket.   Zeb pretty much becomes Chilly’s prisoner, being locked in the cupboard of the gambling house each evening and forced to work the wire that signals Chilly about his opponent’s cards, so he can cheat.   Zeb’s only hope is to escape, and with the help and friendship of a slave and a Hidasta Indian chief and his daughter, he may succeed.  This is a humorous, rollicking adventure reminiscent of Mark Twain’s novels.

Connections:  The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventues of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by W. R. Philbrick.

The True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

homerfiggby Rodman Philbrick.  p. 244 – Grades 5-8

Like adventure?Enjoy humor?Interested in American history, especially the Civil War?Then this is the book for you because it has lots of all three.Orphan Homer P. Figg runs away from the cruel uncle who is raising him after this guardian illegally sells Homer’s older brother Harold into the Union Army.In his quest to rescue his brother, Homer has many dangerous, but also hilarious, adventures along the way.Homer is a chronic liar and his ability to stretch the truth gets him both into and out of some very tight spots.This is a fast-moving tale filled with interesting characters, many surprises, and lots of twists and turns.

Connection:  For other humorous adventures with historical American settings, try Sid Fleischman’s Bandit Moon and Jim Ugly, Walter Dean Myers’ The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner, and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Laurie Halse Anderson

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

chainsCheck out this new historical fiction title from a favorite author:

Chains, p. 316 – Grades 6-10

Highlight:  Watch this great interview (from Reading Rockets) with Laurie Halse Anderson talking about her life and her books.