Seaward Bornby Lea Wait
Thirteen-year-old Michael knows he is lucky. Few slaves in 1805 Charleston are where they want to be. But Michael works on the docks and ships in Charleston Harbor, close to the seas he longs to sail. Life seems good. But when Michael's protective mistress dies/i>
"Sometimes a man has to risk everything to do what's right. Doing it is what makes him a man."
Thirteen-year-old Michael knows he is lucky. Few slaves in 1805 Charleston are where they want to be. But Michael works on the docks and ships in Charleston Harbor, close to the seas he longs to sail. Life seems good. But when Michael's protective mistress dies, everything changes, and Michael's friend Jim encourages him to run away. Michael is torn. Should he risk everything for a chance at freedom in some unknown place? Or should he stay -- is staying safe worth staying a slave?
- Margaret K. McElderry Books
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- SIMON & SCHUSTER
- NOOK Book
- Sales rank:
- File size:
- 2 MB
- Age Range:
- 8 - 12 Years
Read an Excerpt
Dum spiro, spero ("While I breathe, I hope").
-- state motto of South Carolina
Why did the mistress want to see him?
Never in all the thirteen years Michael had lived in the slave quarters of the big house on Tradd Street had Mrs. Lautrec asked for him.
Had she sold him? Was she sending him to her son's plantation, Sotherfield, to sweat in the rice fields?
The questions echoed through Michael's head. He stopped swabbing the floor and looked out from the highest arcade of Saint Michael's Church, far above the red rooftops of Charleston. Mrs. Lautrec sent him to the church every morning to help Mr. Fitzhugh, the sexton. Swabbing the steeple balconies was his favorite task. Usually the sight of the vessels below him in the harbor was enough to let him forget the past months.
Early-spring breezes caught strands of his long, dark hair, worn, as a seaman's would be, tied with an eel-skin thong at the back of his neck. Michael moved to the railing.
He could see all of Charleston, not just from the Cooper River to the Ashley River, but way out to the islands, where Papa had taught him fishing and the ways of the waters, and to the sea beyond. Michael blinked away tears. Papa had drowned in last September's terrible hurricane. The swelling cargo of rice filling the ship Concord had burst the vessel's seams open and taken everyone aboard down with it. That same day Mama had been crushed when high gales knocked the chimney of Mrs. Lautrec's house through the roof. In one day that storm had taken both his parents.
He reached into his pocket andtook out the small, smooth wooden fishing boat Papa had carved for him when he was small. "Every boy, no matter he be a slave, should have a toy," Papa had said. And what Michael had wanted more than anything else, even then, was a boat. He had played with that boat constantly until he was old enough to know toys were only for little children, and had hidden it under his straw-filled pallet. After Mama's and Papa's deaths he thought of it again. It comforted him to feel the smooth wood under his fingers; it made Papa and Mama and the days when he had been a child seem closer. It reminded him that he had been loved.
Michael looked out again at the harbor. How could anyone live without being close to the sea? Masted vessels filled the harbor, their sails like the great wings of angels, carrying people safely from one shore to another. Tall ships under sail had the power to take you to other worlds. Most days the sight of them brought him hope. Today it reminded him of what else he could lose.
"Boy! Come down here this minute! There are other chores to be done!"
It was Mr. Fitzhugh. Michael shoved the boat back in his pocket and picked up the bucket of dirty water and the mop. Mama would have been proud of him, keeping his namesake clean for the Lord. He took one last look seaward and then scrambled down the steep stairs, slipping on the damp steps and spilling some of the dirty water from the pail as he came.
What did the mistress want with him? Sirrah, the cook who had replaced Mama, had said Mrs. Lautrec wanted to speak with him after dinner. The waiting would make for a long afternoon.
Copyright © 2003 by Eleanor Wait
Meet the Author
Lea Wait made her mystery debut with Shadows at the Fair, which was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Shadows on the Ivy, the third novel in her acclaimed series featuring Maggie Summer, is forthcoming in hardcover from Scribner. Lea comes from a long line of antiques dealers, and has owned an antique print business for more than twenty-five years. The single adoptive mother of four Asian girls who are now grown, she lives in Edgecomb, Maine. In addition to the Antique Print mysteries, Lea Wait writes historical fiction for young readers. Her first children's book, Stopping to Home, was named a Notable Book for Children in 2001 by Smithsonian magazine.
Visit her website at www.leawait.com.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I was hesitant to share this book with my children, ages 8 and 12, because the topic of slavery is a sensitive one. But this book made it easier to discuss. It treads a fine line ... it never praises slavery... but it does show how, under some circumstances, it could be tolerable ... but that freedom was worth taking major risks. My children loved the specific details of Micahel/Noah's escape, and his mother's middle passage journey. A book to read and discuss.
I bought this for my son, because it sounded like ad adventure story, but both my daughters also read it, and asked for more by the same author. It is wonderful when someone can write well enough to bring history alive for young people!
An action-packed story of a boy making life-determining decisions; wonderful details about life in slavery and on the sea that don't get in the way of an exciting story.
In Charleston of 1805-7, young slave Michael's world is changed when his master dies and his family is sold off to harsh farm life. But he is given a chance to work on the docks, one of his ambitions, and he hopes it will lead to work on a boat. He hears about slaves who have fled to the north and freedom and wonders if it would be possible for him to do the same. But the dangers seem insurmountable. Will he try for a new life of his own? Lea Wait gives us vivid scenes of Charleston and the life of a slave. The dangers of trying to get away are gripping. Michael, who renames himself Noah, finds out what is most important in a person's life. This is a rewarding and informative tale.
Michael is a slave in Charleston, and he likes his work on the docks and in the harbor there. But his mistress dies and he is afraid of being sold. Trying to run away is very serious for a slave. Sometimes they are killed. But Michael decides to risk it, with the help of a black mariner from Massachusetts. He changes his name to Noah, and he hides in a barrel on board a ship heading for Boston. But the adventure has just started then! I really liked Michael/Noah and I was scared about some things that happened to him -- but I kept reading! A good book!