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Friend on Freedom River

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Overview

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 ...
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Friend on Freedom River

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
This is indeed, as the jacket suggests, a "tale of spirit, compassion and the courage to do what is right when it would be safer to do nothing." It is a story of the Underground Railroad through Michigan and Canada, a less well-known branch of the road to freedom even though the author tells us that 40,000 slaves traveled this route. Young Louis has been left in charge of the farm while his father goes to a logging camp for the winter. His father told Louis "If you don't know what to do, do what you think I would have done." To Louis, that included rowing a slave mother and her two children on a frigid and dangerous trip across the Detroit River. The illustrations are riveting—young Lucy's eyes filled with fear and pleading as they gaze directly at the reader, the glow of the patrol boat lantern that could have ended the run to freedom for everyone. Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen paints in dark oils that leave the texture of the canvas showing through and help convey the many layers of meaning: the choices Louis must make, the tentative companionship between Louis and the young black boy who trusts no whites, and the decisions grown ups make to seek freedom and help freedom seekers. This is a fresh and elegant perspective on the Underground Railroad that can be appreciated on many levels by a wide age range. 2004, Sleeping Bear Press, Ages 7 to 12.
—Karen Leggett
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-As he departs for a trip up North to work in the logging camps, Louis's father imparts this advice to his son: "If you don't know what to do, just do what you think I would have done." The boy must rely on these words as he helps his mother prepare for the coming winter along the Detroit River. The year is 1850, and on a cold December night, Louis hears a familiar whispered question of code coming from the bushes, "Are you a friend?" He replies as his father had taught him to, and a family of runaway slaves asks him to ferry them across the icy waters to freedom in Canada. The text reflects the apprehension and danger of this task for all involved. Meticulous detail is given to facial expressions that reflect character and emotion, to the physical environment, and to the body language of each figure. The compelling text and the beautiful, atmospheric paintings come together well to reflect these historical events with great compassion. Listeners or readers will be thoroughly engaged.-Wanda Meyers-Hines, Ridgecrest Elementary School, Huntsville, AL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Young Louis, acting as the man of the family while his father is working north in a logging camp, is faced with a difficult decision when a family of runaway slaves calls out for help. Does he risk all of their lives trying to cross the Detroit River, just as it's about to freeze over? And really, what choice does he have, when Sarah and her children Tyler and Lucy tell him that the slave-hunters are on their tail and the only thing between them and freedom is the river? When Louis wavers, it's Tyler's challenge that forces Louis to make the difficult choice. Whelan creates complex, believable characters who face daunting challenges with bravery and fear, daring and doubt. Van Frankenhuyzen's dark and dusky palette draws the reader into the cold, dark night of the river-crossing and the hopeful yellow candlelight of Canadian friends allows the sigh of relief. Another fine companion to Deborah Hopkinson and James E. Ransome's Under the Quilt of Night (2001). (Picture book. 6-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585362226
  • Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2005
  • Series: Tales of Young Americans
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 988,526
  • Age range: 6 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 11.46 (h) x 0.45 (d)

Meet the Author

Gloria Whelan
Gloria Whelan

National Book Award-winning author Gloria Whelan weaves rich historical detail into this compelling mystery. Ms. Whelan is the bestselling author of many novels for young readers, including Homeless Bird, winner of the National Book Award, Parade of Shadows, and Listening for Lions. She lives in northern Michigan.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2005

    A decision of the heart

    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.

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