×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Mile's Song
     

Mile's Song

by Alice McGill
 

See All Formats & Editions

It is 1851. Miles is a house slave on the Tilery Plantation, but when he is caught looking at an open book, he is sent to the breaking ground where he learns what it really means to be a slave.

12-year-old Miles is allowed to work in the great house on the Tillery Plantation, where he is training to be a house servant, rather than labor in the fields. But after

Overview

It is 1851. Miles is a house slave on the Tilery Plantation, but when he is caught looking at an open book, he is sent to the breaking ground where he learns what it really means to be a slave.

12-year-old Miles is allowed to work in the great house on the Tillery Plantation, where he is training to be a house servant, rather than labor in the fields. But after he is caught looking at an open book while dusting the library, Miles is banished from the mansion and sent to the breaking ground. There, he learns what it truly means to feel like a slave. But it is also at the breaking ground that he meets Elijah, an older slave who teaches Miles to read and tells him of the land of freedom up north. Armed with his new knowledge, Miles tells himself that he does not feel like a slave and he no longer believes working in the great house is a privlege.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"McGill compellingly builds a 12-year-old's transformation from complacent house slave to potential runaway in her historical novel set on a South Carolina slave plantation in 1851," wrote PW. Ages 11-13. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
McGill (Molly Bannaky) compellingly builds a 12-year-old's transformation from complacent house slave to potential runaway in her historical novel set on a South Carolina slave plantation in 1851. Miles finds his life upended when Master Tillery catches him with a book: "Slaves caught looking in books on the Tillery Plantation risked being sold away or maybe even put to death." Instead, Miles's surrogate mother, Mama Cee, forms an "understanding" with the mistress, who sends Miles to a "breakin' ground" to have his spirit broken by greedy overseers. The author deftly builds Miles's awakening through his exposure to this hard labor and cruelty. A newfound friendship with the educated Elijah fuels his growth; he teaches Miles to read through furtively spelling letters in the sand and on his palms. The characters and their connections to and reactions against one another as they betray or help the others heighten the novel's suspense. When Miles returns to the plantation, only his love for Mama Cee dampens his eager wait for Elijah's escape signal. By confining Miles's role to witness rather than actor, the author undercuts some of the drama of the events portrayed. However, the insights he's gained allow him--and readers--to see how the master fosters the caste system of house servants vs. field slaves to prevent rebellion. Ages 10-14. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
"The novel reads like a suspense thriller, with spies, counterspies,
disguises, and trickery used as weapons on both sides as Miles
battles the belief that it is his destiny to be a slave."
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
While training to become a "house slave" in South Carolina in 1851, twelve-year-old Miles makes the mistake of looking at a book and is sent to the "breaking ground"--the brutal workplace used to break the spirits of "trouble-making" slaves. This illuminating narrative also describes an aspect of slavery not often written about--the class gap between house servants and field workers, and how slave owners magnify the difference for their own protection. It also depicts the subterfuge of slaves who had the wisdom and ability to assume whatever role "Ol' Marse" required. Field hand and house-servant dialects are skillfully done, creating understanding and respect for the double meanings and comforting rhythms that generated hope. Readers will savor Miles' secret reading lessons (he "took to sleeping with his arm wrapped around his head to protect his knowledge") and cheer his determination to take Mama Cee, his surrogate mother, to freedom. The only flaw in this compelling story is an ending that feels rushed compared to the earlier gradual and believable pace. Readers will still value the journey, sharing with Miles his motivation, pride, and pain. 2000, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 9 to 14, $15.00. Reviewer: Betty Hicks
VOYA
In this sensitive yet slightly muddled look at the life of a young slave, Miles is a curious and bright boy who is sent to a work camp where insolent slaves are sent to be broken and taught obedience. His crime was merely looking at a book in the main house. At the camp he meets Elijah, an educated slave who quickly recognizes Miles's aptitude and steadily teaches him how to read and write. When Miles returns to his plantation, Elijah tells him to wait patiently and to keep up with his learning, for he will find a way to help Miles escape. Through forbidden letters, Elijah manages to remain in contact with Miles to get him eventually on the road to freedom. Many of the scenes are touching and a joy to read, such as when Elijah patiently scratches letters in the dirt to teach Miles the alphabet and as Miles repeats words over and over to himself to remember their spelling. Several moving scenes involving Miles and his Mama Cee are heartwarming and genuine. Well grounded in historical fact and with engaging glimpses into plantation life, this novel is a fine complement to a unit studying slavery, but the plot does not move quickly enough to hold interest for pleasure reading. Several characters are poorly developed, making them difficult to follow and detracting from the otherwise interesting scenes. VOYA CODES: 2Q 2P M J (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2000, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 12 to 15, 224p, $15. Reviewer: Rebecca Vnuk
Kirkus Reviews
Professional storyteller McGill (Molly Bannaky, 1999) has written a first novel that is enjoyable and compelling, though it shows some seams. Miles is a young slave being trained as a servant in the great house, but when he is caught looking at a book, he is sent to the breaking grounds. There he meets Elijah, who teaches him to read and write, and to set his mind towards freedom. He learns how to use field talk as a mask to show the breakers and the masters the slave they want to see, and then returns to the plantation. There he awaits word from Elijah to start the journey that he will embark upon toward freedom. McGill's narrative moves smoothly and lyrically, with the sweeping tones of an oral story. Unfortunately, the characters, while convincing, are generally one-dimensional, and historical details sometimes seem forced. For instance, Miles, though violently startled the first time he hears a steam train, boards his first train without notice. These and other slight inconsistencies mar the cohesiveness of the novel; yet it is still a good and well-told story that will have wide appeal and may educate young readers about aspects of slavery, like hammer rings and the breaking grounds. This is promising work. (Fiction. 9-13)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780439280709
Publisher:
Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
02/01/2002
Edition description:
REPRINT
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
7.86(w) x 7.54(h) x 0.24(d)
Age Range:
11 - 13 Years

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews