Friend on Freedom Riverby Gloria Whelan, Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen (Illustrator)
In 1850 the Detroit River was a major track along the Underground Railroad -- the last step to freedom. The journey across the river was dangerous, especially in winter and especially for a 12-year-old boy. When Louis's father left him in charge of the farm he offered his son this advice, "If you don't know what to do, just do what you think I would have done." Louis relies upon his father's words of wisdom when a runaway slave and her two children come looking for safe passage. In the second title in our Tales of Young Americans series Gloria Whelan -- author of National Book Award winning Homeless Bird -- beautifully creates a suspenseful coming-of-age story while illuminating a difficult time in America's past. Ms. Whelan's narrative again shows the human spirit will forever shine brightly in dark times. Freedom River - part of our Young Americans series - will quickly become a favorite for its important message and look at history from a youngster's eye. Artist Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen - a Sleeping Bear Press favorite - treats the material as only he can. Each illustrated page demonstrates the same mastery and devotion to his craft as the young heroes he brings to life.
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My 7 year-old son and I shared this book. It opened up a dialogue about racial tension. Additionally, it enabled us to reflect upon a time in history when one group of people were fiercely ostracized and pitted against another. Moreover, it led us to discuss our lives now -- what is better and what still needs to be improved upon. Furthermore, we talked about the courage and the resolve within Louis to listen to his own heart knowing that his mother was waiting him and had no idea what he was doing. Louis risked his life and the lives of Sarah, Tyler and Lucy to take them to freedom in Canada. Across the cultural barriers, they were able to forge a friendship where they had to trust each other.