Dream Freedom

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Slavery still exists in some parts of the world, even in the year 2000. In Sudan, tens of thousands of men, women, and children of the Dinka and Nuba tribes are regularly captured, taken from their homes and families, and forced into hard labor.
Based on a true story and real-life contemporary events, this novel tells how a group of students in Denver, Colorado, learns of the atrocities in Sudan, and how they begin to make a difference—raising money to "redeem" slaves and ...

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Overview

Slavery still exists in some parts of the world, even in the year 2000. In Sudan, tens of thousands of men, women, and children of the Dinka and Nuba tribes are regularly captured, taken from their homes and families, and forced into hard labor.
Based on a true story and real-life contemporary events, this novel tells how a group of students in Denver, Colorado, learns of the atrocities in Sudan, and how they begin to make a difference—raising money to "redeem" slaves and educating others about this dire situation. Award-winning author Sonia Levitin juxtaposes the safe and secure world of an American classroom with the severe hardship of the Dinka people, making Dream Freedom a book that will raise consciousness around the world.

Marcus and his classmates learn about the terrible problem of slavery in present-day Sudan and raise money to help buy the freedom of some of the slaves. Alternate chapters tell the stories of the slaves.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 17 self-contained chapters, Levitin (The Cure; Escape from Egypt) vividly depicts the harsh reality of modern-day slavery in Africa. The book begins on familiar territory, an American classroom, where grade-schooler Marcus learns of the atrocities occurring in Sudan. Then alternating chapters include vignettes set in the Sudan itself, with first-person accounts from villagers like the once-beautiful Dabora who has been stolen from her family to serve as a slave. Inspired by their teacher, Marcus and his classmates raise money to buy liberty for Dinka slaves ("The price is equal to about two goats--in our money, fifty dollars," says his teacher). The stories set in the Sudan convey a range of experiences and images of terror, yearning despair and hope: Alier, a northern Sudanese, is sent to study in Arab schools to learn their ways, but must return home to his father, a chief, after their small village is ravaged by soldiers; "lucky" Aziz, the son of a wealthy Arab businessman, experiences an initiation to manhood (seeing his father buy and beat his slaves) that leaves an indelible mark; and Majok and his nameless contact take enormous risks to aid refugees. Though the story's moral at times overpowers the volume and the construction may be hard for some to follow, the author's inspirational telling leaves readers with a strong political message tied to Mother Teresa's gentle appeal (and the classroom's mantra): to "do small things with great love." Ages 10-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA
In 1998, Colorado fifth grade teacher Barbara Vogel and her students founded S.T.O.P. (Slavery That Oppresses People). This grassroots, child-driven organization raises money through paper drives, lemonade stands, and letter-writing campaigns to buy back the freedom of slaves in the Sudan. Vogel and her students, who have lost count of the thousands of slaves that they have helped free, have rightly earned the international acclaim that they enjoy and cultivate to further their efforts. Award-winning author Levitin pays tribute to this remarkable woman and her extraordinary students in this novel of connected stories. Marcus, a student in Miss Hazel's fifth grade class, hungers for attention from his exhausted single mother whose chief worry is Marcus's wayward older sister. Fortunately Marcus thrives under Miss Hazel's care and quickly becomes a tireless worker on the class project raising money to free slaves in the Sudan. In alternating chapters, Levitin brings to life a dozen different Sudanese slaves, whose stories are representative of the horrific conditions endured by their real-life counterparts. In tidy parallel resolutions, Marcus's mother finally realizes the terrific work her son is doing, and the enslaved Sudanese characters of the previous chapter are all freed together by the money Marcus and his classmates raised. Levitin's intended audience is young, but she successfully portrays the horrors of slavery—rapes, massacres, torture—using language that is age appropriate. Units on volunteerism, activism, and Africa would do well to include this title on their reading lists. An appendix titled "What You Can Do to Help" provides the telephone number, address, and Website for S.T.O.P. Appendix. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2000, Harcourt, 288p, $17. Ages 12 to 14. Reviewer: Beth E. Andersen

SOURCE: VOYA, December 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 5)

Children's Literature
For most of the world, slavery is an evil portrayed in history books. But in Sudan it is a shocking reality. Sudan, racked by Civil War between the Islamic government in the north and the African Christians in the south, is the scene of barbaric raids on African villages. The Dinka and Nuba peoples are torn from their tribes, branded, mutilated and sold to Arab Berbers. This novel presents twelve stories of individuals scarred by modern slavery. Interspersed is the story of Marcus, a young boy who lives in the United States. A classroom project to free the slaves in Sudan enlarges his perspective, adding new meaning and purpose to his life. Levitin writes in a lyrical prose, conveying the rhythm of an African folktale. Each chapter set in Sudan stands as a separate story that a teacher could read aloud in class. This novel will raise consciousness and provide material for spirited discussion between students and adults. An extensive bibliography shows that this was a well-researched work. Web sites and full contact information are provided for those who would like to learn more about this problem. Harcourt, 2000. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Jackie Hechtkopf
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-In 1997, a Denver fifth-grade class learned that chattel slavery still exists in Sudan, and began a campaign to raise money to free the enslaved. Their crusade is the inspiration for Levitin's moving narrative. Marcus, a boy who dreams of freedom from his cramped city apartment in California, becomes involved in the cause through the efforts of his teacher. The story of his dawning understanding that there are more fundamental freedoms weaves in and out of chapters that tell the stories of Sudanese slaves, their relatives, and others affected by slavery. The slave Dabora sings her song of longing for her rightful name and her people; her daughter longs to buy her back. Koor tells how a boyhood friend, shunned for working in town, misses his tribal initiation, but not the deadly battle that follows in the continuing civil war. Alier and Majok leave their rural villages for education, but don't forsake their tribal responsibilities. Rosha and Rola take pride in their discovery of their black heritage and their father's role in the buy-back program while Aziz recoils from his first slave-buying trip with his father. Bit by bit, the author builds up the picture; the result is an intense portrayal of the complex pattern of Sudanese society today and the issues surrounding buying back slaves. A slow beginning and the complex construction may deter some independent readers, but this book would be ideal for classroom use, and it deserves a librarian's helping hand.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Writing from several points of view, Levitin relates the story of modern-day slavery in Sudan and of the destruction of village and family life that civil war has brought to that beleaguered country. Marcus, a grade-school student in the United States, learns about the situation in Sudan from his teacher, and with his classmates, raises money to contribute toward buying slaves their freedom, which can be purchased for as little as 50 dollars. Dabora, a slave in northern Sudan, dreams of freedom and of the daughter she left behind in the ruined village that the soldiers destroyed. The daughter, who now lives with an old woman in the village, often asks the old woman about the mother she barely remembers and the father whom the soldiers murdered. Two twin girls, wondering where their father disappears to so often and suspecting him of having an affair, follow him one night and discover that he helps rescue slaves, a dangerous activity that could easily get him arrested, or worse. Aziz, 12, the son of a wealthy family who have always had slaves to take care of the cooking, cleaning, farming, and any other menial and undesirable job, also makes a discovery on the day his father allows him to go to work with him. As he watches his father trade arms for slaves, Aziz is shocked and horrified when his father beats one of them. Aziz knows that one day, when he is older, he will fight to abolish slavery from his country. While well-meaning and certainly instructive, this novel works less well on a literary level. The author has written the book to make young readers aware of the problem of slavery in Sudan and the story and characterizations suffer as a result. The chapters are choppy andtheconnections between each of the chapters and its characters are hard to follow. The language is often opaque and unclear. Although the story is intended for 10-14-year-olds, readers older than Marcus, the character who ties the story together and who seems to be a fifth- or, at most, sixth-grader, will find him immature and hence be put off the story. (Fiction. 10-14) London, Jonathan WHAT DO YOU LOVE? Illus. by Karen Lee Schmidt Silver Whistle/Harcourt Brace (32 pp.) Oct. 2000
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152024048
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 670L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Sonia Levitin is the author of many acclaimed works of historical fiction, including The Return, a Parents' Choice Honor Book and winner of the National Jewish Book Award; Journey to America, an ALA Notable Book; and Escape from Egypt, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and a Booklist Editors' Choice. Ms. Levitin writes and teaches in Los Angeles.

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