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“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.”
Summary: Matty and her family are slaves who serve Mr. Joshua Warren of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 1802, when Matty was five, Mr. Warren agreed to grant his slaves their personal freedom. Though receiving their freedom papers technically freed them, American society was not ready to treat former slaves as equals. In fact, everyday life for black people, free or slave, was very dangerous. Matty is sharing her life’s story with her children and grandchildren to help them understand and appreciate their heritage. This historical fiction novel takes place in 19th Century New Hampshire, and follows the life of a newly freed African slave.
Type of Reading: family reading, independent reading, playtime reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 9 to 12; read yourself: 10 and up
Age of Child: Students at the SanMar Children's Home, ages 16 and 17.
Young Reader Reaction: We liked the book. There is a twist in the story and the father came back. At the beginning you didn't think he would. I liked that it was told from a child's point of view. It was interesting and hard to imagine a little girl doing all that stuff. It was "Okay," but not something I would normally read. I'm not into historical fiction. We also learned a lot about slavery, and how communities fought fires (there were no big fire trucks, just bucket brigades).
Adult Reader Reaction: History teacher: This story is top drawer. The author knows how to craft a unique and charming story and keep her reader's attention. SanMar teacher: liked the book but believes the book will appeal more to middle school kids.
Pros: This is an informative, wholesome, and enjoyable book that adolescents will find hard to put down. This book is an excellent book to expose students to a perspective of slavery in the north during the early 1800s.
Borrow or Buy: Buy. The reader is immediately captivated by the main character, Matty. Although the story is historical fiction, it gives a wonderful account of the early 1800s and slavery in the North.
Educational Themes: This has great educational value, and it would be a great book to read to students studying the history of African Americans. It teaches a perspective on slavery that we don't often hear about. The story describes the lives of slave families in New England in the nineteenth century. Even when they earned their freedom, they could not exercise the rights and privileges of democracy because society frequently turned its head when rabble rousers and bigots would abuse, rob, kidnap or murder former slaves. It provides insight to human nature, ethics, morality, and recognizes the courage. perseverance, and pride that black people demonstrated in their effort to be truly free.
Literary Categories: Fiction - historical fiction, US history, black history