Well-known for her historical volumes for young people, author Kem
Knapp Sawyer has produced a first novel that will enhance her reputation
as a writer. Subtitled "Journey of a Slave Girl," Sawyer's latest book
is the exciting fictional story of slaves escaping on the Underground
Railroad just before the Civil War. This heart-wrenching tale will
awaken young readers' interest in our Civil War history, while it
underscores the biblical admonition ot love thy neighbor, even if she is
an escaping slave. Through the use of historical documents, diaries and
letters, Sawyer paints a chilling picture of enslaved life. Two girls,
one white and one black, become friends and learn to trust each other,
as Abby, the white girl, assists Louisa to flee to England. Careful
research and accurate descriptions make "Freedom Calls" a must-buy for
school libraries, as well as parents who wish to encourage children to
study our history and grow up without prejudice. Highly recommended.
Hutton Book-Review Services
Louisa, a 15-year old slave, runs away from a senator's plantation
in Georgetown and walks to the Potomac River where she boards the Pearl,
a ship she hopes will carry her and other escapees to freedom.
Within hours, however, the ship is boarded and the slaves are
captured, but plucky Louisa refuses to give up. As the slaves are being
led to a holding area, she bolts and seeks her friend, Abigail Bailey,
14, but Abby is facing a challenge, too.
Her father, Gamaliel Bailey, a son of a Methodist minister,
publishes an abolitionist newspaper and the irate citizenry are blaming
him for stirring up the slavery issue.
"Freedom Calls: Journey of a Slave Girl (White Mane Kids, White Mane
Publishing Co. Inc., Shippensburg, $17.95) by Kem Knapp Sawyer is a
story of friendship and courage for teenagers.
Sawyer's book is a historical novel based on an actual incident from
1848 - the escape of 76 slaves from a Washington harbor and their
capture aboard the Pearl. While Louisa's character is fictional, Sawyer
consulted autobiographies of former slaves, including Frederick
Douglass, as an inspiration. Historical figures are woven into the
Sawyer also incorporates into the 181-page novel discussions of the
Underground Railroad and the escape of fugitives to Britain.
A Yale University graduate, Sawyer teaches writing at Corcoran
College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C. She also wrote "Lucretia
Mott: Friend of Justice," "The Underground Railroad in American History"
and "Refugees: Seeking a Safe Haven."
Midwest Book Review
Freedom Calls: Journey of a Slave Girl tells the story of Louisa's
escape from slavery and of her friendship with Abby, the daughter of an
abolitionist newspaper publisher. Both girls take enormous risks to do
what they think is right. They learn that freedom can only be obtained
at great expense. Based on an actual incident from 1848 (the escape of
76 slaves from a Washington harbor and their capture aboard the Pearl),
Kem Sawyer has paid meticulous and painstaking attention to historical
detail in her riveting story for young readers. Freedom Calls is a
particularly appropriate and highly recommended addition to school and
community library Black History Month collections and reading lists.
Wash. Post Bk World
In Freedom Calls: Journey of a Slave Girl, author
Kem Knapp Sawyer proves that courage knows no gender. Set in 1848 in
Georgetown, the story follows 15-year-old Louisa as she leaps toward
freedom on a whim.
As a servant on loan, the teen travels daily to her mistress's
house, then back to the home of her owner, the Senator. On one homeward
stroll, she overhears a clandestine conversation. "'You may never get
another chance like this one,' Louisa heard the man next to her whisper
to his neighbor. She listened more closely and learned that he was
trying to convince his friend to run away with him. He had heard that a
boatman from New Jersey was willing to take fugitives north."
Days later, Louisa hides with 75 others in the crowded hull of a
boat named the Pearl, until a mob chases down the boat and foils the bid
for freedom. Because she is not shackled, Louisa flees during the hectic
march to prison: She can go back to her home.
Abigail Bailey, the white, teenage daughter of abolitionist
newspaperman Gamaliel Bailey, becomes Louisa's only hope. Harbored in
secret, Louisa hides until Abby can help her secure a lasting freedom.
Louisa's quest is fictional, but many of Sawyer's details were drawn
from historical documents. Seventy-six slaves did seek freedom on the
waters of the Potomac; their captain was tried and convicted; the bodies
of Gamaliel Bailey and his wife, Margaret, are buried in Georgetown.
Fifteen-year-old Louisa is a slave in 1848 Washington, D.C. With the assistance of her abolitionist friend, Abby, Louisa bravely attempts to escape aboard the Pearl. When the boat is captured, Louisa's quest for freedom continues and eventually takes her to England, where she struggles to make a new life for herself. Drawn from the real-life story of the 76 slaves who attempted to escape aboard the Pearl, this intriguing book follows the imagined course of one slave who managed to escape. The book not only details the struggles of Louisa but also of Abby and her white, abolitionist family's attempt to survive in a conflicted, antebellum Washington, D.C. 2001, White Mane Books, $17.95. Ages 8 up. Reviewer: Rebecca Joseph
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-Based on true events that took place in Washington, DC, in 1848, this story attempts to portray both the life of a slave trying to escape and the abolitionist movement. Fifteen-year-old Louisa has decided to take her chances aboard the Pearl, a ship willing to carry fugitive slaves north. When the vessel is captured, she escapes again, this time to her friend Abby, whose father publishes an antislavery newspaper. Hiding in Abby's room for a week, Louisa embarks on a dangerous journey that eventually takes her to England and true freedom. Although obviously well researched, the historical details overwhelm the narrative, resulting in a story that often drags, with characters that never seem fully alive. The friendship between Louisa and Abby serves only as a plot vehicle and the letters they exchange at the end strain credibility. This novel might work in a social-studies unit but most readers won't find it engaging enough to stick with it.-Cyrisse Jaffee, formerly at Newton Public Schools, MA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.