Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story

Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story

by Janet Halfmann, Duane Smith
     
 

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Growing up a slave in South Carolina, Robert Smalls always dreamed of the moment freedom would be within his grasp. Now that moment was here.

Robert stood proudly at the Planter's wheel. Only seven miles of water lay between the ship and the chance of freedom in Union territory. With precision and amazing courage, he navigated past the Confederate forts in the

Overview

Growing up a slave in South Carolina, Robert Smalls always dreamed of the moment freedom would be within his grasp. Now that moment was here.

Robert stood proudly at the Planter's wheel. Only seven miles of water lay between the ship and the chance of freedom in Union territory. With precision and amazing courage, he navigated past the Confederate forts in the harbor and steered the ship toward the safety of the Union fleet. Just one miscalculation would be deadly, but for Robert, his family, and his crewmates, the risk was worth taking.

Seven Miles to Freedom is the compelling account of the daring escape of Robert Smalls, a slave steamboat wheelman who became one of the Civil War’s greatest heroes. His steadfast courage in the face of adversity is an inspiring model for all who attempt to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Charles E. Kreinbucher
This is a book about Robert Smalls' heroic and daring escape from slavery. It serves a strong account of history, slavery, and freedom. Janet Halfmann's "Afterword" provides an extended biography, and readers will learn that Robert Smalls reached the level of Major General and became the first African American to have a ship named after him. The story begins when Robert is a young boy. His faithful service of his master led Robert to earn the man's respect and become his favorite. As a result, Robert was given more opportunities and spared many of the abuses of slavery. Still, witnessing the evils of that system motivated him. As a teenager, he became very interested in sailing; he was given the opportunity to work on ships and in shipyards. Finally, he was promoted to the job of wheelman. Robert quickly learned the ins and outs of the rivers and channels. His newfound knowledge was an important part of his escape from slavery. After briefing his crew and their families, Robert stole his ship in order to go north to the Union fort. It turned out that Robert had a load of Confederate cannons to transport that day. As a smart and prepared sailor, he knew the secret signals and procedures to use when navigating so as not to call attention and cause alarm. As a result, he was able to slowly creep out to sea. There, he was met by a Union ship. They were pleased to offer freedom and honor in exchange for the cannons. Reviewer: Charles E. Kreinbucher
School Library Journal

Gr 3-7- Born and raised a slave in coastal South Carolina, Smalls worked on the docks, then learned shipbuilding and piloting. In an amazing feat of daring in 1862, he stole a Confederate ship by impersonating the captain, sent a rowboat to pick up waiting family members, sailed past five Confederate forts, and turned the ship over to Union troops blockading the area. Smalls became the first African-American captain of a United States vessel; he later served in the South Carolina legislature and the United States Congress. He was featured in Eloise Greenfield's collective biography How They Got Over (Amistad, 2003), but this book is an excellent vehicle to bring his story to a wider audience. Although presented in picture-book format, the text is detailed and there is a lot of it; the artistically beautiful but impressionistic images require some visual maturity from the audience. The oil paintings employ thick, bold strokes and deep saturated colors to convey Smalls's strength and determination in successfully delivering his and his crew's family members to freedom.-Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA

Kirkus Reviews
The daring Civil War escape of a slave, his crew and their families in a stolen Confederate supply boat receives appropriately inspirational treatment in this new picture book. Robert Smalls grew up in Beaufort, S.C., distinguishing himself to his owners as a bright, likely young man. Working on the docks, he quickly learned seamanship, a skill he put to the test when, as wheelman of the Planter, he used his knowledge of the Confederate's whistle signals and the opportunity presented by the onshore carousing of the white members of the crew to slip through the harbor to freedom. Halfmann tells the story slowly at first, laying out both Smalls's abilities and the yearning for freedom that only increased with his marriage and subsequent fatherhood. Smith, a newcomer to picture books, sketches out scenes and characters with broad daubs of oil, creating a sculptural effect that heightens the monumental nature of Smalls's deed. Page turns and textual pacing combine to relate the actual escape with pulse-pounding excitement; readers' relief at Smalls's success is almost physical. A triumph. (author's note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-11)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781600609862
Publisher:
Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Publication date:
05/01/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
40
Sales rank:
598,301
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 10.75(h) x (d)
Lexile:
AD870L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 Years

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