Escapes!

Overview

Ten nail-biting stories of real-life escapes.

In 1979, the streets of Iran's capital city, Tehran, turned ugly. Six Americans caught in the uprising found protection at the Canadian embassy. Through the feverish efforts of the embassy staff, the fugitives were disguised as Canadians -- complete with fictitious passports -- and were able to escape the country.

History is full of such daring escapes, often creative, always heart-pounding. ...

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Overview

Ten nail-biting stories of real-life escapes.

In 1979, the streets of Iran's capital city, Tehran, turned ugly. Six Americans caught in the uprising found protection at the Canadian embassy. Through the feverish efforts of the embassy staff, the fugitives were disguised as Canadians -- complete with fictitious passports -- and were able to escape the country.

History is full of such daring escapes, often creative, always heart-pounding. Escapes! recounts ten of these nail-biting tales. Discover Lady Nithsdale's ruse to free her husband from the impenetrable Tower of London in 1716. Fall into Douglas Bader's harrowing escape from a plummeting Spitfire in World War II. Hold your breath as two families drift over the Berlin Wall in a homemade hot-air balloon!

From getaway gladiators to runaway slaves, from the endless Sahara to the impassable Bastille, each exciting story will have young readers eager to escape into the next!

Key Features:

  • Fascinating true stories of ingenuity, drama, suspense, and heroics
  • Stories from throughout history, from ancient Rome to the modern day
  • Black & white line drawings with each story
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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-These 10 stories feature people throughout history who were enslaved, oppressed, or fleeing enemy armies. The time periods range from 73 B.C.E. when Spartacus led a legion of slaves into the mountains to escape sure death as gladiators to 1979 when American Embassy diplomats went into hiding to escape the wrath of Ayatollah Khomeini revolutionaries. In 1941, Douglas Bader, who lost both legs in an airplane crash, went on to be a squadron leader for the RAF and was shot down by Hitler's Luftwaffe. As the airplane plummeted to earth he freed himself from his metal leg and parachuted into enemy territory and later got away from his captors by knotting hospital bedsheets together. These plot-driven stories center on human ingenuity and resourcefulness in the face of danger. They could serve as an enticement for reluctant readers or as read-alouds.-Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Resource Links - Connie Forst
This is an amazing book... What is interesting about these stories is the amazing range of human creativity these individuals showed in beating the odds... sure to enthrall school age readers, as well as adults.
Canadian Materials - Joan Marshall
In her introduction to this excellent book of short stories about true escapes, Laura Scandiffio emphasizes that, although escapees are often creative and courageous, it is ultimately their sense of hope for freedom that drives them to risk everything to escape. These ten mesmerizing, true stories are definitely those of determined, hopeful people who refused to accept imprisonment, either of body or soul. Sometimes luck was with them, but their escapes often rested on careful, methodical planning, disguises, and persistence.... [These are] compelling, suspenseful stories that will have all middle school students begging for more. Recommended.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781550378221
  • Publisher: Annick Press, Limited
  • Publication date: 9/6/2003
  • Series: True Stories from the Edge Series
  • Pages: 176
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Scandiffio has worked as an editor for both children's and adult trade books. As an author, her previous book, The Martial Arts Book, showcased her love of history, her meticulous research, and her knack for storytelling.

Stephen MacEachern's illustrations also appear in Tunnels!, the first book in the True Stories from the Edge series, and 38 Ways to Entertain Your Babysitter.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Breakout from the Bastille

"From here there is no excape..."

Through the Traitor's Gate

Fugitives in Iran

Falling from the Sky

Under Siege

The Gladiator Wall

Over the Wall

Slaves of the Sahara

Tickets to Freedom

Sources
Index
About the Author

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Preface

Introduction:
Struggles for Freedom

A slave, chains on her ankles and wrists, is tugged to the auction block. A man sent to prison for his beliefs watches his guard close the cell door and fears that he has seen daylight for the last time. A soldier, hands on his head, is marched at gunpoint through the grim gates of his enemy's prisoner of war camp.

All very different people, from different times and places, and all dreaming of the same thing

Escape!

It's an impulse every human being feels when trapped. No one is willingly confined, and every captive dreams of freedom. A special few will act on this slim hope.

Men and women have used their wits and courage to escape from all sorts of threats: from slave owners, from dungeons, from enemy armies, from physical danger. They may be fleeing jailers or governments. Some have been shut in by four walls, while other prisons are the kind you can't touch, but which trap people alive -- in slavery or oppression.

The greater the obstacles to be overcome, the more impossible escape seems, the more the stories fascinate us. Across the ages, different places have come to mind as the ultimate challenges for escapers. Each era has had its notorious prisons -- from England's Tower of London, where people who posed a threat to the government awaited execution, to France's Bastille, where inmates could be locked away their whole lives without a trial. Slavery whether in ancient Rome or in many of the American states during the 1800s -- was a fate millions dreamed of fleeing. The prisoner of war camps of the Second World War (1939-45), with their barbed wire, armed guards, and spotlights, seemed inescapable to all but a determined few. And the "Cold War" that followed, between the Soviet Union and the
Western powers, brought with it the infamous East German border wall, which kept all but the most desperate defectors behind its barrier of concrete, mines, and armed patrols with orders to shoot.

And yet despite the odds, a few found ways past these deadly traps, ways that show the amazing range of human creativity. They got out with clever disguises or ingenious hiding places; by patiently waiting or boldly dashing forward; by using whatever materials were at hand, crafting tools of escape from even the most innocent-looking objects.

***

"I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now I was free. There was such a glory over everything, the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in heaven."

Harriet Tubman, an American slave who escaped from her master in 1849, remembered her first thrilling taste of freedom. Her reaction is surprisingly similar to the feelings recalled by other escapers, whatever the place and time. Many speak of the same exhilarating moment when, though they could scarcely believe it, they were actually free.

Once Harriet Tubman made it north to freedom she wasn't content to stay there, however. Despite the dangers, she returned south again and again to help other slaves escape, more than three hundred in all. She became part of the network of antislavery helpers known as the Underground Railroad, people who hid runaway slaves on their journeys north out of the slave states, often all the way to Canada.

Still, escape from the slave states was no easy matter. Often thousands of miles had to be crossed, with professional slave catchers close on runaways' trails. But until the Emancipation Proclamation freed all slaves in 1863, many were desperate enough to try. One slave even had friends package him inside a wooden box, three feet by two feet, and mail him to the state of Pennsylvania, where slavery was illegal. He spent 27 hours inside, and no one paid much attention to the label: This Side Up, With Care. Amazingly, he survived, and Underground Railroad workers unpacked Henry "Box" Brown, as he became known, in Philadelphia.

Some people have managed to escape all on their own, without aid, but many others could not have been successful without the bravery of secret helpers on the outside. The Underground Railroad was the most famous of such networks in the 1800s. A hundred years later, the Second World War saw the birth of secret organizations dedicated to helping Allied soldiers escape or evade capture by the enemy.

***

"It is every officer's duty to escape..."

An Allied combat pilot of the Second World War faced huge risks every time he climbed into the cockpit. If shot down, he hoped to bail out and parachute to safety. But even if he survived the landing his troubles were only beginning. His mission had probably taken him far over enemy territory -- maybe Germany or occupied France. Chances were he'd been spotted on the way down, and enemy soldiers were already rushing to take him prisoner.

Military intelligence in England realized how critical it was to get these pilots, as well as the soldiers stuck in prisoner of war (POW) camps, back into action. A new branch of the British Secret Intelligence Service -- dubbed M19 -- was formed. Its job was to do everything possible to keep downed pilots out of enemy hands and to help prisoners of war to escape. Working round-the-clock, the people at M19 came up with gadgets and schemes to stay ahead of the enemy. The "science" of escape was born.

One unconventional technical officer at M19, named Christopher
Clayton-Hutton, realized that many escape tricks had already been discovered by the soldiers of the First World War. Clayton-Hutton recruited schoolboys to read memoirs from World War I for clues to what a soldier needed in order to escape. He was impressed by the boys' work. Many of the ingenious escape methods of the previous war had been forgotten.

Clayton-Hutton scanned the boys' list of escape aids, and came across "dyes, wire, needles, copying paper, saws, and a dozen other items, some of which I should never have dreamed of."

He set to work on an "escape kit" that every pilot could carry in the front trouser pocket of his uniform and that held essentials to keeping him at liberty: compass, matches, needle and thread, razor, and soap (looking grubby was a sure giveaway when you were on the run!). Food was provided in small, concentrated form: malted milk tablets or toffee.

M19 also wracked its brains to help prisoners of war escape their German camps. Getting out was hard enough, but once outside a crucial item was needed if they hoped to stay free -- a map. Escaping POWs hoped to cross the German border into Switzerland, a country that had remained neutral in the war. From there they could make contact with helpers and get home.

But without a map, they were more likely to be recaptured while wandering near the border, lost. And it couldn't be just any old map. It had to open without rustling (escapers often consulted maps while search parties were combing the area nearby), and it had to be readable even when wet, and no matter how many times it was folded and creased. M19 hit upon the solution: reproduce maps on silk.

But how would they get them to the prisoners? All POWs received mail from home, so M19 came up with ways to sneak the maps in through letters and packages from "relatives." Working with the music company HMV, they inserted thin maps inside records, which would be sent to prisoners by nonexistent aunts.

As the war continued, M19's tricks got cleverer. POWs were sent blankets that, once washed, revealed a sewing pattern that could be cut and stitched to make a German-looking jacket -- a perfect disguise. The razor company Gillette helped to make magnetized razor blades that worked as compasses. Wires that cut bars were smuggled in shoelaces, screwdrivers inside cricket bats.

The stories of the lucky Allied soldiers who escaped from Germany were kept secret for many years,

Read More Show Less

Introduction

Introduction:
Struggles for Freedom

A slave, chains on her ankles and wrists, is tugged to the auction block. A man sent to prison for his beliefs watches his guard close the cell door and fears that he has seen daylight for the last time. A soldier, hands on his head, is marched at gunpoint through the grim gates of his enemy's prisoner of war camp.

All very different people, from different times and places, and all dreaming of the same thing

Escape!

It's an impulse every human being feels when trapped. No one is willingly confined, and every captive dreams of freedom. A special few will act on this slim hope.

Men and women have used their wits and courage to escape from all sorts of threats: from slave owners, from dungeons, from enemy armies, from physical danger. They may be fleeing jailers or governments. Some have been shut in by four walls, while other prisons are the kind you can't touch, but which trap people alive -- in slavery or oppression.

The greater the obstacles to be overcome, the more impossible escape seems, the more the stories fascinate us. Across the ages, different places have come to mind as the ultimate challenges for escapers. Each era has had its notorious prisons -- from England's Tower of London, where people who posed a threat to the government awaited execution, to France's Bastille, where inmates could be locked away their whole lives without a trial. Slavery whether in ancient Rome or in many of the American states during the 1800s -- was a fate millions dreamed of fleeing. The prisoner of war camps of the Second World War (1939-45), with their barbed wire, armed guards, and spotlights, seemed inescapableto all but a determined few. And the "Cold War" that followed, between the Soviet Union and the Western powers, brought with it the infamous East German border wall, which kept all but the most desperate defectors behind its barrier of concrete, mines, and armed patrols with orders to shoot.

And yet despite the odds, a few found ways past these deadly traps, ways that show the amazing range of human creativity. They got out with clever disguises or ingenious hiding places; by patiently waiting or boldly dashing forward; by using whatever materials were at hand, crafting tools of escape from even the most innocent-looking objects.

***

"I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now I was free. There was such a glory over everything, the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in heaven."

Harriet Tubman, an American slave who escaped from her master in 1849, remembered her first thrilling taste of freedom. Her reaction is surprisingly similar to the feelings recalled by other escapers, whatever the place and time. Many speak of the same exhilarating moment when, though they could scarcely believe it, they were actually free.

Once Harriet Tubman made it north to freedom she wasn't content to stay there, however. Despite the dangers, she returned south again and again to help other slaves escape, more than three hundred in all. She became part of the network of antislavery helpers known as the Underground Railroad, people who hid runaway slaves on their journeys north out of the slave states, often all the way to Canada.

Still, escape from the slave states was no easy matter. Often thousands of miles had to be crossed, with professional slave catchers close on runaways' trails. But until the Emancipation Proclamation freed all slaves in 1863, many were desperate enough to try. One slave even had friends package him inside a wooden box, three feet by two feet, and mail him to the state of Pennsylvania, where slavery was illegal. He spent 27 hours inside, and no one paid much attention to the label: This Side Up, With Care. Amazingly, he survived, and Underground Railroad workers unpacked Henry "Box" Brown, as he became known, in Philadelphia.

Some people have managed to escape all on their own, without aid, but many others could not have been successful without the bravery of secret helpers on the outside. The Underground Railroad was the most famous of such networks in the 1800s. A hundred years later, the Second World War saw the birth of secret organizations dedicated to helping Allied soldiers escape or evade capture by the enemy.

***

"It is every officer's duty to escape..."

An Allied combat pilot of the Second World War faced huge risks every time he climbed into the cockpit. If shot down, he hoped to bail out and parachute to safety. But even if he survived the landing his troubles were only beginning. His mission had probably taken him far over enemy territory -- maybe Germany or occupied France. Chances were he'd been spotted on the way down, and enemy soldiers were already rushing to take him prisoner.

Military intelligence in England realized how critical it was to get these pilots, as well as the soldiers stuck in prisoner of war (POW) camps, back into action. A new branch of the British Secret Intelligence Service -- dubbed M19 -- was formed. Its job was to do everything possible to keep downed pilots out of enemy hands and to help prisoners of war to escape. Working round-the-clock, the people at M19 came up with gadgets and schemes to stay ahead of the enemy. The "science" of escape was born.

One unconventional technical officer at M19, named Christopher Clayton-Hutton, realized that many escape tricks had already been discovered by the soldiers of the First World War. Clayton-Hutton recruited schoolboys to read memoirs from World War I for clues to what a soldier needed in order to escape. He was impressed by the boys' work. Many of the ingenious escape methods of the previous war had been forgotten.

Clayton-Hutton scanned the boys' list of escape aids, and came across "dyes, wire, needles, copying paper, saws, and a dozen other items, some of which I should never have dreamed of."

He set to work on an "escape kit" that every pilot could carry in the front trouser pocket of his uniform and that held essentials to keeping him at liberty: compass, matches, needle and thread, razor, and soap (looking grubby was a sure giveaway when you were on the run!). Food was provided in small, concentrated form: malted milk tablets or toffee.

M19 also wracked its brains to help prisoners of war escape their German camps. Getting out was hard enough, but once outside a crucial item was needed if they hoped to stay free -- a map. Escaping POWs hoped to cross the German border into Switzerland, a country that had remained neutral in the war. From there they could make contact with helpers and get home.

But without a map, they were more likely to be recaptured while wandering near the border, lost. And it couldn't be just any old map. It had to open without rustling (escapers often consulted maps while search parties were combing the area nearby), and it had to be readable even when wet, and no matter how many times it was folded and creased. M19 hit upon the solution: reproduce maps on silk.

But how would they get them to the prisoners? All POWs received mail from home, so M19 came up with ways to sneak the maps in through letters and packages from "relatives." Working with the music company HMV, they inserted thin maps inside records, which would be sent to prisoners by nonexistent aunts.

As the war continued, M19's tricks got cleverer. POWs were sent blankets that, once washed, revealed a sewing pattern that could be cut and stitched to make a German-looking jacket -- a perfect disguise. The razor company Gillette helped to make magnetized razor blades that worked as compasses. Wires that cut bars were smuggled in shoelaces, screwdrivers inside cricket bats.

The stories of the lucky Allied soldiers who escaped from Germany were kept secret for many years, and important details were changed in or left out of books published after the war. Many people feared that a new war with the Soviet Union was on the horizon, and it would be foolish to give away escape tricks and routes that might prove useful during the Cold War. After all, a known escape trick is a useless one.

It was the Cold War that gave rise to one of the most famous symbols of imprisonment, and of the dream of escape: Germany's Berlin Wall. This concrete barrier, topped with barbed wire and dotted with watchtowers and arc lamps, was begun by the Communist government of East Germany in 1961 to halt the flow of thousands of citizens defecting to West Germany Soon the entire country was split in two by the border wall. In East Berlin some people could look out their apartment windows and see into the homes of West Berliners living on the other side. And yet they were completely cut off from one another. As one border guard put it, even though the other side "was only six or seven meters away I would never go there. It would have been easier to go to the moon. The moon was closer."

Although many residents of East Germany accepted their government and living conditions, others found they could not. Freedom -- the freedom to travel, to say and write what they believed without fear of punishment -- beckoned. Until the wall was torn down in 1989, countless escapes were attempted at the wall, and many died trying to get across it to the West. They tried climbing over it, tunneling under it, driving past it hidden in the cars of West Germans. Once again, it seemed that the bigger the obstacle placed between a person and freedom, the more human creativity is inspired to meet the challenge.

***

Imagine for a moment that you have been taken prisoner. You and your fellow captives are marched in a long line toward barracks behind barbed wire. As you file along the winding path leading to the compound, the guards at the head of the line suddenly disappear around a corner. You twist your head around. The guards bringing up the rear are also momentarily out of sight as you round the bend. For this one instant, you won't be spotted if you dive out of line and roll under the bushes along the path. You have mere seconds to make up your mind. What do you do? Stay in line and face the misery -- but safety -- of captivity? Or seize the moment and make a break for it?

Anyone in your place will dream of escape, but only a few will act on the impulse. M19 estimated that far fewer than one percent of Allied prisoners of war took the plunge and escaped in World War II. But who? What kind of person?

Psychologists have found that people who escape often share the same character traits. They're not necessarily the strongest or the boldest, but they are open-minded and flexible people who can improvise on the spot and adapt quickly to changes. If one tactic fails, they try another. They are willing to take risks and learn from mistakes. Often they are good actors, able to blend in with locals and to hide their fear or their intentions. And they're not the type to freeze when placed in a difficult situation, as many people do. They can keep a clear head and not panic. Perhaps most importantly, they firmly believe that their future survival depends on themselves, and no one else.

Pierre Mairesse Lebrun, a French cavalry lieutenant imprisoned by the Germans in World War II, felt that in some ways the personal bravery needed for an escape was even greater than that needed for the battlefield: "I think it's easy to be brave in war, unless you are a complete coward. Escaping is a voluntary act of bravery, which is very difficult. Very difficult when you are risking your life."

Lebrun himself certainly had his share of courage. Using his friend's cupped hands as a stirrup, he vaulted over his prison camp's barbed wire fence in plain view of the guards. Under fire, Lebrun dashed for the outer wall, bobbing and weaving like a hunted rabbit. He waited until the guards stopped to reload their guns, then scrambled over the second wall. Even his enemies had to admire his nerve: "For sheer mad and calculated daring," wrote the camp's German security officer, "the successful escape of... Pierre Mairesse Lebrun, will not, I think, ever be beaten."

Perhaps not, but it certainly faces some tough competition. What follows are ten stories of real people who refused to give up their dreams of escape, no matter how huge the struggle.

Some are stories of people born into slavery, but who dreamed of freedom. And of those whose freedom was taken away from them, but who fought to win it back. Sailors kidnapped by slave-traders and dragged across the Sahara. A man captured in his homeland by the army of ancient Rome and condemned to fight to the death as a gladiator. A family that took to the air to cross a wall that seemed to have sprung up overnight, dividing their country in half and holding them prisoners in their own land.

These are dramas from across time and around the globe. From medieval knights trapped with their lady in a castle under siege, to modern diplomats who slipped through the fingers of captors in an embassy hostage-taking that shocked the world. From political prisoners who found ingenious ways out of some of history's most feared prisons, to soldiers who hatched a bold plan to break out of Germany's "escape-proof" camp, and a fighter pilot who faced every airman's worst nightmare -- being trapped alive in a crashing plane.

All true stories of human courage, but also stories of hope -- because hope is what kept these remarkable people going in the face of the most overwhelming obstacles and dangers.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2008

    Escapes

    The book Escapes! by laura Scandiffio was an exiting story of thr history of daring escapes. There was 10 heart-stoping stories of escape all around the world and at different times in history. The author does a great job of engaging the reader in the escaping collection. I liked how each story had a different plot, but everytime they tried to escape. I wonder if she tried to connect each story together some how. I think someone would enjoy this book. you get lost in it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2008

    Escapes

    In the book escapes it is about a bunch of different stories connected by the fact that they are all about that there are people in situations in which they need to escape from. In some cases they could be prisoner or captive in a jail and all of them go through tough experiences. The story can sometimes be scary and sometimes suspensful. From the first page of the book the author gets you hooked into the book and from there on you are prmanently hooked in the book because of the suspense and the cliffhangers at the end of the book. That is what i like about this book. Someone who might enjoy this book would be someone who likes action books. A question i have for the author would be what inspired him to write this book?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2008

    A reviewer

    i did like this book, but not the whole book, because the begining was good and informational, about famous escapes and historic movements twared freeing slaves! but the reast of the book wasent very good :[

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2008

    really good book

    I have just recently finished the book Escapes!, by Laura Scandiffio. This book tells many different tales of people who have escaped from the most dire situations. It goes from the gladiator wars in 73 B.C. to modern day Iran(1979). Laura scandiffio does do a good job of grabbing the readers attention. Right from the get go she starts a story about two miserable men(one even writes letters with his blood). They come together and escape in the most unlikely ways. one thing that i like about the book is that you don't figure out the ending of each story until the end of the story. I know this should be obvious, but I am confused on how Laura Scandiffio gets so accurate information on things like the gladiator wars which happened many of hundreds of years ago. I think people who like adventure, suspense, and action will enjoy this book. In conclusion Escapes!, in my opinion is a very good book, and I would fully recommened it.

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