Once on This River

Overview

Now in Knopf Paperback--the riveting historical novel of a young black girl's shocking discovery of her true heritage. The first eleven years of Monday de Groot's life have been virtually untouched by slavery. But all that changes when Monday and her mother leave the safety of Madagascar and set sail for New York. The year is 1760, and Monday's uncle has been illegally enslaved by a wealthy Dutch family. Only Monday's mother holds the key to his freedom--and a secret book that ...
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New York c1998 Hard cover First Edition, First printing New in mylar cover. Mylar cover may show some rub wear. 150 p.; 22 cm. While on a trip with her mother from Madagascar to ... New York in 1760, eleven-year-old Monday learns the horrors of slavery and the truth about her "other" mother. == 130 == Read more Show Less

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Overview

Now in Knopf Paperback--the riveting historical novel of a young black girl's shocking discovery of her true heritage. The first eleven years of Monday de Groot's life have been virtually untouched by slavery. But all that changes when Monday and her mother leave the safety of Madagascar and set sail for New York. The year is 1760, and Monday's uncle has been illegally enslaved by a wealthy Dutch family. Only Monday's mother holds the key to his freedom--and a secret book that could change Monday's life forever.

While on a trip with her mother from Madagascar to New York in 1760, eleven-year-old Monday learns the horrors of slavery and the truth about her "other" mother.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Despite "occasionally ponderous execution," said PW, this tale about an African girl's voyage to New York in 1760 to free her illegally enslaved uncle is "otherwise rewarding." Ages 10-13. (Dec.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Occasionally ponderous execution impedes the flow of this otherwise rewarding novel about an African girl's voyage to America in 1760. Monday and her mother, citizens of Madagascar, have set out for New York City to rescue Monday's uncle, who has been illegally enslaved. The setting is sharply drawn and the background fascinating, showing how a small community of free African Americans flourished in the years before the Revolutionary War. The reader, along with Monday, is plunged into a strange world where some black people are slaves and others are respected professionals and land-owners. In striving to understand her cousins and new friends, Monday learns a shocking secret about her own origins. Unfortunately, the novel gets bogged down in its intricate explanations of how all the characters (and their forebears) came to be in their current situations. The climax, in which a desperate Monday lectures a ship's captain about the evils of slavery, has a forced quality that undercuts much of the subtler groundwork laid earlier. Wyeth (The World of Daughter McGuire) has an imagination equal to her prodigious skills as a researcher, but she has a tendency to toss every pertinent historical fact into the mix rather than keep the focus on her story. Ages 10-13. (Jan.)
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Monday de Groot and her midwife mother, Leslie, leave their home in Madagascar to board a slave ship that is headed to pre-Revolutionary America. Their mission is to rescue Monday's uncle, a freeman who's been sold into slavery. Monday ventures forth on a voyage of discovery. She delivers her first baby only to discover it will likely live a life of slavery. She learns how her color connotes cruel treatment as well as the secret of her mysterious beginnings. The book's resolution results in a circle of events that deepen an already meaningful plot.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8In this story set in 1760, 11-year-old Monday de Groot accompanies her mother from Madagascar to the woman's former home in colonial New York to prove that her brother, a free black man, has been wrongly sold into slavery. Leslie de Groot is a midwife and herbalist who earns their passage by acting as the ship's doctor. Monday's life to this point has been untouched by the evils of slavery, but as she moves amid the free blacks and the enslaved of New York, she is exposed to them in full measure. Uncle Frederick is ultimately freed, but along the way Monday learns the secret concerning her own birth and takes a stand to help free a young man who is in fact her brother. Period details are intertwined within the slowly moving plot. However, despite the descriptions of the lot of the slaves and the recounting of tragic events, Monday's story is ultimately uninvolving and fails to engage readers. Hints dropped early about Monday's true identity let readers realize long before she does that Leslie de Groot is not her birth mother. When Monday confronts the ship's captain at the story's climax and accuses him of being a slave to his thinking, his capitulation is simply too convenient and abrupt to be believed. Illustrated with prints from wills, newspaper notices of runaway slaves, bills of sale and the like, this is an earnest presentation that just somehow misses the mark. Sandra Forrester's My Home Is Over Jordan (Lodestar, 1997) is a much more compelling story. Wyeth's book does provide a good look at the time and place, and might be useful where historical fiction is in great demand.Elaine Fort Weischedel, Turner Free Library, Randolph, MA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679883500
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 12/29/1997
  • Pages: 150
  • Age range: 10 - 13 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.57 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Before becoming an author of children's books, Sharon Dennis Wyeth went through many different career changes. Her first job after graduating from Radcliffe College was as a family counselor at a day-care center in New York City. She then went on to become an actress, producer, and playwright--and, at one time, owner of her own off-off-Broadway theater. She was also a writer for daytime television, a voice teacher, and a Public Speaking Consultant. She has been a children's book author since 1985.

Sharon Dennis Wyeth lives in Montclair, New Jersey, where she enjoys singing, hiking, cooking, and gardening.

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