Inspired by the author's research for Now Let Me Fly: The Story of a Slave Family , this is an equally trenchant tale. An African American woman and her daughter find the diary of an ancestor named Libbie. In simple dialect, the girl's entries relate how, in 1834, she, her father and her sister, Clarissa, joined other plantation slaves to run away from a cruel master. They encounter a group of Seminole Indians (with ``skin the color of walnuts, dressed in feathers, beads, and silver'') who are willing to give them land to farm and who treat them ``like brothers,'' even though the runaways, as protection from slave catchers, are technically the tribe's slaves. Though Libbie mourns her estrangement from Clarissa, who is taken in by a woman who has lost her own daughter, life is tranquil until the government forces the Seminoles to move to a reservation in the Oklahoma Territory. Libbie and her father accompany them, but Clarissa flees to Florida with her adoptive Seminole family. ``I will probably never see my little sister . . . again,'' writes Libbie, closing her diary with the melancholy words, ``There is nothing more I can say.'' Johnson's softly focused, vividly hued paintings affectingly illustrate this emotion-charged account of a little-known chapter in American history. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-Written in diary form by a young slave, Libbie, this is the account of her family's escape from slavery in 1834. Making the decision to head south instead of north, Libbie, her father, and her younger sister travel for several weeks seeking freedom and safety. They are befriended by a group of Seminoles, who offer the runaways their protection. Libbie and her family settle into their new life, but this relative peace is not to last. The Seminoles are being forced by the U.S. government to move from Florida and settle on a reservation in Oklahoma. Torn between going to an uncertain future in the West, being returned to slavery, or going deeper into the swamps with a breakaway group of Seminoles, Libbie's father decides to go to Oklahoma. Carefully researched and beautifully written, Seminole Diary reveals a seldom-told story of slaves who escaped and joined Native American groups, where they found safety and acceptance. The diary is read to a modern-day ancestor of Libbie by her mother, thus strengthening the connection between past and present. The vivid, bold oil paintings reflect the sun-filled Florida landscape and the colorful dress of the Seminoles. The layout is particularly effective, with the text set on a picture of a book and placed on the double-page spreads. An attractive, unusual offering for any collection.-Carol Jones Collins, Montclair Kimberley Academy, NJ
Gina's mother reads to her daughter from the diary written in 1834 by Libbie, a young slave and ancestor. In this story based on historical facts, Libbie, her family, and several other slaves escape to southern Florida, where they live with a generous Seminole Indian tribe, learn the tribe's customs, experience the difficulties of adjusting to a new way of life, and finally face a challenging dilemma. The fact that a young slave girl could write so well and sensitively or even write at all makes the story's premise slightly implausible. The diary entries appear in the upper corners of each double-page spread, smoothly blending into the vibrant, colorful illustrations, which are executed in oil paints on canvas. Because the book portrays a little-known aspect of slavery, the story will add a further dimension to the study of the time period in American history.