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Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule

Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule

4.1 9
by Harriet Gillem Robinet

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Winner of the 1999 Scott O'Dell Award
A Notable Children's Book in the Field of Social Studies

Maybe nobody gave freedom, and nobody could take it away like they could take away a family farm. Maybe freedom was something you claimed for yourself.
Like other ex-slaves, Pascal and his older brother Gideon have been promised forty acres


Winner of the 1999 Scott O'Dell Award
A Notable Children's Book in the Field of Social Studies

Maybe nobody gave freedom, and nobody could take it away like they could take away a family farm. Maybe freedom was something you claimed for yourself.
Like other ex-slaves, Pascal and his older brother Gideon have been promised forty acres and maybe a mule. With the family of friends they have built along the way, they claim a place of their own. Green Gloryland is the most wonderful place on earth, their own family farm with a healthy cotton crop and plenty to eat. But the notorious night riders have plans to take it away, threatening to tear the beautiful freedom that the two boys are enjoying for the first time in their young lives. Coming alive in plain, vibrant language is this story of the Reconstruction, after the Civil War.

Editorial Reviews

Klara Fontaine
Forty Acres and Maybe a Muleis the story of two young brothers who set out with other slaves for the Freedman's Bureau, to receive their forty acres. For Pascal, one of the book's main characters, having land also means getting respect from the white man. The author's unique descriptions of events will certainly appeal to a child's sense of adventure as they learn about unity, courage, patience and most importantly, about believing in them-selves.
Black Issue Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A 12-year-old orphaned slave leaves South Carolina in search of a Freedmen's Bureau during Reconstruction to claim the "40 acres and a mule" promised by General Sherman. "A stirring story of self-determination," said PW. Ages 8-12. (Jan.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Heidi Green
It's April 1865. The Civil War has ended and the slaves are free. Or are they? Many are still bound by fear of their former violent masters and they continue to work the plantations, unpaid and ill treated. Pascal doesn't even know he's free until his older brother Gideon returns for him. With Pascal's young friend Nelly, they set off to claim the "forty acres and maybe a mule" that Gideon has heard they are promised. Along the way, they gain the company of an older gentleman, who has taken the name Mr. Freeman, and his granddaughter, Gladness. The 'family' does manage to gain its forty acres and to farm it successfully, but racism remains a powerful force. Robinet's Author's Note provides a framework for further discussion about Reconstruction, and her brief bibliography will be a good source for readers who want to know more.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Once again, Robinet has humanized a little-known piece of American history. In the spring of 1865, the Freedmen's Bureau approved a plan to give 40 acres of abandoned land to former slave families. Forty thousand freed people took advantage of that offer, only to lose their farms when it was withdrawn in September. The author focuses on Pascal, 12, a slave on a plantation in South Carolina. His older brother Gideon, who ran away during the war, returns to collect him and they head for Georgia, determined to become landowners. Teaming up with Pascal's friend Nelly and the elderly Mr. Freedman and his granddaughter, they form a family, claim land, and begin to farm. The Bibbs, white neighbors from Tennessee, are helpful in protecting them from the night riders who are determined to destroy black-owned farms. Despite their hard work, Pascal and the others are evicted at the end of the summer. Luckily, Gideon had found a treasure buried under a tree, and they set out to buy land on the Georgia Sea Islands. Pascal is a likable boy whose withered hand and leg limit his body but not his mind and whose dreadful jokes entertain everyone. The dialect may deter some readers at first, but sympathy for the characters will keep children going until they reach the satisfying ending.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews
From Robinet (The Twins, the Pirates, and the Battle of New Orleans, 1997, etc.), an earnest look at the human face and the human cost of Reconstruction in the South. Pascal's older brother, Gideon, comes back for him after running away from the plantation, saying that he is free, that all the slaves are free, made so by President Lincoln, and they are to get 40 acres to farm. As Pascal and Gideon search for the Freedmen's Bureau that will give them title, they build a family of other former slaves. They get their spread, which they name Green Gloryland, but their hard work and joy are short-lived; a few months after they have planted cotton and built a house, their land is given over to whites, and the school and other black settlements are burned. Much of what happens in this story is told rather than shown, while the characters never come fully off the page. The text is often heavy- handed, e.g., "Colored and white, we're all just neighbors" and "Why couldn't white people just let them live?" Pascal, who has a withered arm and leg, is an inveterate punster, which adds levity to an otherwise grim story. (bibliography) (Fiction. 9-12)

Product Details

Publication date:
Jean Karl Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Wendell Minor has illustrated dozens of picture books, and his work has won countless awards and is in permanent collections of such institutions as the Museum of American Illustration and the Library of Congress. His cover illustrations have graced some of the most significant novels of our time by authors such as Toni Morrison, David McCullough, and James Michener. He lives in Washington, Connecticut. Visit him online at MinorArt.com.

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Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Miguel Sandoval More than 1 year ago
i read this book in school 7years ago, and i still love it! it is a definite must have!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story is about a young black slave, Pascal, and his family reaching for their own land. The event happened in the beginning of the reconstruction period of South America. Pascal¿s brother Gideon who had left his former plantation of a white master, came back to convince his younger brother and his orphaned friend Nelly to leave there with him. They were motivated to have their own land by a promise of ¿forty acres and maybe a mule¿ from the Bureau of Refugees. Along the way to find the land they searched for other to be members of a new family, make new friends. Finally, their dream about the farm comes true. They got the land, forty acres, in Georgia and planed many plants. Just when its nearly harvest time, a government said that slaves must gave back their land. This is a story of determination, hard work, create a new lives and family, of hope, peace, and love, in a cruelty society. Therefore, the event in this book kept my interested through the end. When I read this story I found myself full of joy and hope for the City family. However, in another side I was fear and sorrow because not knowing whether the family could survive after they gave their farm back to the government. Moreover, ¿forty acres and maybe a mule¿ seemed to be their new life that they had dreamed and fight for it. A major theme in this book is man against society. I think the writer, Robinet, allow the reader to enter the world of slaves that there are many obstacles during the reconstruction period. I¿m very impressed in Pascal characteristic because he learns that he is a worthwhile person even though he has a weak physical. About Gideon, he learns that he is a man whether or not he has no land. He and others learn that freedom is about having dignity. They never discouraged for the difficulty. They made me to think to a real life that although the land can be taken, but freedom can¿t be taken away from them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
it was great
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book in school for literature circles. The first fifty pages are boring but after that it gets pretty good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As an outsider who shares no background of American history, the story of Pascal and his brother Gideon really saddens me. I guess on every page of human history and throughout a course of our civilization, social unjustice and racial discrimination are just inevitable. Some places seem to be more severe and heartless than the others. Pascal and his new founded family have worked really hard for their shared dream--a dream of having a new life in their own farm--doing their very best to make it materialized, only to be shattered and deprived of everything at the end. This is a very disturbing reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its really teans and fun
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so muchhh
Kecia Burkart More than 1 year ago
I had to read it in school.It sucked bably
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is the29 th. Meet me here at 7 central time.