To quote KLIATT's Sept. 1998 review of the hardcover edition: The Revolutionary War in South Carolina was an especially bloody conflict, with families divided and terrorism rampant. Rinaldi tells of several months in the life of Caroline, the summer of 1780, when Caroline is 14 years old. Her father, a patriot, is imprisoned by the British; her brother is fighting for the British, but switches loyalties; her sister is flirting with the British officer occupying their home. During the horror of this time, Caroline faces the truth about her own place in the family; that her biological mother is a slave who was sold to the West Indies, and her grandmother is a slave still living on their plantation. Caroline has been adopted into the white family, sharing a father with her half-siblings. In the midst of this story, Caroline undertakes a dangerous journey with her slave grandmother, a skilled herbalist, to find her wounded brother and bring him back home. This journey works on several levels, as a time for Caroline to learn about her own heritage through a relationship with her grandmother, and a time to find strength within herself to be decisive and courageous. The story itself is relentlessly gripping, starting with Caroline witnessing the hanging of her childhood friend and seeing her family ruined by the war. Caroline is an appealing narrator and readers will see the horror through her eyes. My only reservation is that while I'm willing to believe it possible that Caroline's white family regulated her relationship to them, by essentially adopting her, I feel that it is wildly improbable. To add to this improbability, at the end Caroline tells of her marriage into a white family whowelcome her knowing of her heritage. Of course there were many children born during slavery whose fathers were their owners or other members of the owners' families, and these slave children grew up side-by-side with their white siblingsthat fact is not what I'm objecting to in Rinaldi's story. I'm worried that Rinaldi might be misleading YA readers who don't know much about the horrors of slavery by writing that the white family adopted Caroline, covering up her slave heritage, and then another family welcomed her as a wife knowing that same heritage. Therefore, I think it would be important for teachers and librarians to point out to this book's readers just how unusual Caroline's position was; more than likely she would have remained a slave, perhaps given some preferential treatment, but not accepted as an equal. KLIATT Codes: JSRecommended for junior and senior high school students. 1998, Harcourt, Gulliver Books, 282p, bibliog, 18cm, 98-4770, $6.00. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; May 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 3)
Children's Literature - Heidi Green
Fourteen-year-old Caroline has seen her family devastated by war. Her father has been imprisoned as a rebel, and her brother has gone to fight for the British. Her sister has become the companion of the pompous British officer occupying their family home, and her mother has been forced to wait on him. Yet the War also provides an opportunity for Caroline to be closer to her family. Caroline is actually the daughter of her father and a slave she's never known; in this time of war, racial barriers are relaxed, and the girl becomes close to her grandmother, Miz Melindy. As the two travel to rescue her wounded brother, Caroline learns more about her past-and her self-than she's ever known. Rinaldi's narrative is fluid and captivating. The author's note addresses the historical context of the tale. The bibliography identifies nonfiction texts that deal with these issues.
VOYA - Brenda Moses-Allen
Rinaldi's thought-provoking novel opens as fourteen-year-old Caroline Whitaker witnesses the hanging of a childhood friend who tried to attack a troop of British soldiers patrolling the Camden, South Carolina, countryside in 1780. The hanging changes how Caroline regards the war and her life. Her moroseness is compounded by confusion about her family and their part in the war. Caroline's father, a wealthy businessman and plantation owner, is in prison because he refuses to pledge allegiance to King George. Her brother Johnny, opposing their father's views, has joined the Loyalists. The women of the family, Caroline, her mother, and sister Georgia Ann, are forced to suffer the unpredictable whims of English officer Lord Rawdon who has commandeered their house and businesses to shelter and feed his marauding troop of soldiers. Events take on a different meaning for Caroline when Rawdon requests a special cook, her black grandmother and her father's slave, Miz Melindy. The world Caroline once knew changes and her feelings about the people who inhabit that world are thrown into turmoil as she and Miz Melindy travel the back roads looking for Johnny, who has been wounded by the British. The "good master" slave owner is portrayed here: the British are the villains and slave owners play only a minor role as oppressors. Rinaldi does offer a realistic view of the effects of slavery on the lives of the plantation slaves, however, and truthfully depicts the intermingling of the masters' and slaves' lives. Another small but integral part of the novel is the friendly relationship that existed between some Native Americans, slaves, and colonialists in South Carolina. The author's painstaking research is evident in this work, affording an insightful look at the varied ways of American life during the Revolutionary War in this fine addition to her list of historical YA fiction. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-The prolific Rinaldi's latest piece of historical fiction focuses on the Southern colonies during the American Revolution. War reaches Camden, SC, in 1780, and Caroline Whitaker's privileged world comes undone. For the lively 14-year-old, things are already uncomfortable; her household is split between her beloved brother Johnny's Loyalist military service and her father's unabashed support for the Patriots. In rapid succession, Caroline then witnesses the brutal execution of a childhood friend, sees her father imprisoned for refusing to declare loyalty to King George, and, along with her mother and sister, becomes a prisoner in their own home when British troops occupy the plantation. The stress, fear, and confusion bring to light one of the family's greatest secrets: Caroline's birth mother, whom she never knew, was a slave in the Whitaker household. When word comes of Johnny's court-martial and brutal punishment, Caroline undertakes a journey to bring him home, accompanied by her maternal grandmother, Miz Melindy, a slave who is also a skilled healer. Both expect to face danger, but neither of them anticipates how significant their travels will be for Caroline's future. Rinaldi has incorporated prodigious historical research and provocative themes to produce a deftly plotted and fast-paced novel.-Starr E. Smith, Marymount University Library, Arlington, VA
Skeletons come and go from a wealthy South Carolina family's closet when the British army arrives in this tale set during the Revolutionary War. While sister Georgia Ann has taken to dining nightly with haughty Lord Rawdon, Caroline Whitaker, 14, scorns the occupying officer; she has seen a friend hanged and her Patriot father thrown into prison. Word comes that brother Johnny, a member of the Loyalist militia, has been wounded, so Caroline and her "negra" grandmother, Miz Melindy, set out to bring him home. Caroline not only learns that Johnny has switched sides, but that her birth mother, Miz Melindy's daughter, didn't die (as she had always been told); she was shipped off to the West Indies as the price of Caroline's acceptance as a Whitaker. Deftly incorporating facts into the background but leaving most of the violence offstage, Rinaldi (Mine Eyes Have Seen, 1998, etc.) keeps the focus on her characters, developing an entertainingly contentious rapport between Caroline and Miz Melindy while strewing the cast with rough men and widowed or abandoned women. Georgia Ann eventually becomes Rawdon's doxy, then is summarily dropped from the story, and Johnny, willing to risk his life to save his slave, breaks off with the Catawba women he had been seeing for years in the name of appearances. In the end, Caroline has no trouble marrying into a white family, a seeming paradoxþconsidering the pervasive consciousness of racial differences hereþthat Rinaldi doesn't explain. Anna Myers's Keeping Room (1997), a less disingenuous story set in the same place and time, offers a more direct view of the unusual brutality that characterized the war in the Carolinas. (bibliography)(Fiction. 12-15)
From the Publisher
[star] "Impeccably researched, vividly detailed, and filled with very human characters."
Booklist (starred review)