Freedom Newcastle has never known the life of slavery the way his father, Nehemiah, did. Free is pretty sure his dad is active in the Underground Railroad, and natters incessantly to get his father to tell him about it. Nehemiah thinks ignorance means safety, so Free's questions go unanswered. When two "patrollers" come seeking runaways, they torment the family, and Nehemiah is hauled down to the magistrate's. Now Free must fill in for his father, delivering a precious cargo of slaves to the next station by deciphering the one clue his father left to guide him. The sensations of pride, fear and exhaustion that Free experiences grip the reader and don't let go until the final pages.
- Mary Sue Preissner
As 12-year-old Freedom Newcastle grows, he becomes more aware of his surroundings and the particular happenings in his Delaware community in 1850. Living and working daily with his father, a free black, Freedom has learned to harvest the willow crop on their farm. He also has added up many clues, such as lights in a house and cryptic conversations with neighbors, and concluded that his father is a conductor for the Underground Railroad. With his father's false imprisonment, followed by the torching of their home, Freedom must overcome his fears and inexperience and, using all his wits and courage, guide another family to the safety of the North.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Freedom Newcastle, 12, knows his father, Nehemiah, is a conductor on the Underground Railroad. He wants to be included in the clandestine activities, but is told over and over, ``ignorance'll keep you safe.'' Then, when the man is arrested by patrollers, Free must accept responsibility for leading a family of runaway slaves to safety and he realizes that he has romanticized Nehemiah's involvement. As he leads this family to the next station, he realizes how courageous his father is and grows to respect the abolitionists' commitment to freedom for all people. This is a fast-moving book with excellent characterization. The story is based on fact and will be useful to students studying the Civil War era.-Ann M. Burlingame, North Regional Library, Raleigh, NC