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Summary: Raised in a hostile environment where abuse occurs daily, David attempts to break the mold and befriends the slave, Jenkins, owned by his Pa. Fighting against extraordinary times and beliefs, David leads Jenkins to freedom with no regard ... This is an historical fiction story for transitional readers.
Type of Reading: independent reading, learning to read, read aloud book, illustrated chapter
Recommended Age: read together: 7 to 10; read yourself: 10 to 12
Interest Level: 8 to 11
Reading Level: 4.9
Age of Child: Read with 10-year-old girl.
Young Reader Reaction: Our fourth-grader thought David's dad was "stupid." Until we read further and she made the connection that this was about slavery, she was off put by the story. There were elements of the story she recognized (like learning about the Underground Railroad), and she liked how David helped Jenkins escape.
Adult Reader Reaction: The first few sentences took me aback, and I almost stopped reading. As "grabbers go," this one is pretty stark. I'm glad we kept reading, as I learned some things about how the Underground Railroad worked that I didn't know. I loved that there was plenty of white space on each page. Maybe it was just me, but it was comforting (given the harshness of the story) to have that sense of "space" where you could think your own thoughts. Taken as a whole, the illustrations were disappointing given the quality of the story.
Pros: Readers are instantly pulled into David's world as they look at slavery and the Underground Railroad through his eyes.
Cons: Some readers may be offended by the violent start of the story. Adults reading to younger children may want to find a way to summarize that part.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is an excellent selection for a classroom library.