Soon Be Free

Soon Be Free

4.0 2
by Lois Ruby, Jean-Francois Podevin, Jean Podevin
     
 

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"Why do weird things always happen to me?"
Dana thought she had solved all the historical mysteries in her parents' house in Lawrence, Kansas. But now that her parents have turned the house into a bed-and-breakfast, Dana isn't so sure. Their first guests, the Burks, are a suspicious couple who snoop where they shouldn't, searching for a secret document

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Overview

"Why do weird things always happen to me?"
Dana thought she had solved all the historical mysteries in her parents' house in Lawrence, Kansas. But now that her parents have turned the house into a bed-and-breakfast, Dana isn't so sure. Their first guests, the Burks, are a suspicious couple who snoop where they shouldn't, searching for a secret document linked to the Weavers, a Quaker family who lived in the house almost 150 years ago when the house was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
As Dana combs the house for the hidden document, the story unfolds of thirteen-year-old James Baylor Weaver and his journey in 1857 to bring four slaves to freedom. James's travels will not only change his life but will bring about a horrible choice — one that holds the key to the mystery Dana must solve before the Burks. Will she find the document in time?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A companion to Steal Away Home, this book alternates between a present-day mystery set in a bed-and-breakfast and a historical adventure about a 13-year-old-boy who aids four runaway slaves in 1857. Ages 8-12. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The ill-starred pioneer family of Mary Jane Auch's Journey to Nowhere and Frozen Summer returns in The Road to Home. This installment, set in 1817, finds 13-year-old Remembrance Nye leading her younger siblings back from upstate New York to their grandmother's house in Connecticut. (Holt, $16.95 ages 9-12 ISBN 0-8050-4921-5; July) A companion to Steal Away Home, Lois Ruby's Soon Be Free alternates between a present-day mystery set in a bed-and-breakfast and a historical adventure about a 13-year-old boy who aids four runaway slaves in 1857. (S&S, $17 ages 8-12 ISBN 0-689-83266-4; Aug.) THE TEDDY BEARS' PICNIC Jimmy Kennedy, illus. by Alexandra Day. S&S/Aladdin, $5.99 ISBN 0-689-83530-2. ~ The illustrator of Good Dog, Carl creates a cozy woodland gathering of cuddly bears, inspired by a favorite song. Ages 3-6. (June) BLAZE FINDS THE TRAIL C.W. Anderson. S&S/Aladdin, $4.99 ISBN 0-689-83520-5. ~ Originally published in 1950, this story of Billy and his adventures exploring the forest with his pony is available in paperback for the first time, complete with colorized cover art. Three more Blaze books previously available only in hardcover will follow. Ages 5-8. (July) ~ SECRET LETTERS FROM 0 TO 10 Susie Morgenstern, trans. by Gill Rosner. Puffin, $4.99 ISBN 0-14-130819-2. ~ "Set in France and wrought with energy and wit, this chronicle of a deprived young man whose life is turned topsy-turvy with a new neighbor's arrival is not to be missed," wrote PW in a starred review. Ages 8-12. (Aug.) THE BOXES William Sleator. Puffin, $4.99 ISBN 0-14-130810-9. ~ This tale of a girl who, like Pandora, is given not one but two boxes she is forbidden to open, is filled with the author's "signature high-style ick and suspense," said PW. Ages 8-12. (Aug.) THE MARVELOUS MISADVENTURES OF SEBASTIAN Lloyd Alexander. Puffin, $4.99 ISBN 0-14-130816-8. ~ Spiced with the author's unique brand of wit, this winner of the 1971 National Book Award follows a young adventurer with good intentions through disaster after disaster. Ages 10-14. (July) REACHING DUSTIN Vicki Grove. Puffin, $5.99 ISBN 0-698-11839-1. ~ PW called this "a heartfelt story that unmasks the vulnerabilities of two preadolescents from very different walks of life." Ages 10-up. (Aug.) SOMEONE LIKE YOU Sarah Dessen. Puffin, $4.99 ISBN 0-14-130269-0. ~ PW said this "realistic portrayal of contemporary teens and their moral challenges breathes fresh life into well-worn themes of rebellion and first love." Ages 12-up. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature
Ruby has given us two booksinone in alternating chapters: a historically intriguing account of a young Quaker conductor on the Underground Railway, and a less involving mystery of a contemporary girl trying to find out the significance of her parents' bed and breakfast. The stories come together because the thirteenyearold conductor, James Baylor Weaver, lived in the house that Dana Shannon's parents now rent out as lodging. Their first two visitors, however, are obnoxious and sneaky. The Berks are turning the house upside down searching for documents that would give them ownership of Kansas property that rightfully belongs to the Delaware Indians. Dana becomes involved in the mystery when she tries to find out what the Berks are looking for and how it connects to the skeleton of a runaway slave, Lizbeth Charles, found in her parents' backyard. The book works best in its historical chapters because the reader comes to care deeply about the Kentucky slave family that James leads to the Kansas border. James also is handed a very complicated decision, one in which he must choose whether to trade land for human freedom, or respect the land rights of Native people, who were, again, being cheated by whites. It is this choice that ties James to the future Dana, but Dana's investigations don't have nearly the ethical weight of James' life or death decisions. However, between the two separate story lines, there is enough entertainment to satisfy lovers of history and devotees of mystery, so all readers should be happy. 2000, Simon and Schuster for Young Readers, Ages 11 to 14, $17.00. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
VOYA - Voya Reviews
Thirteen-year-old Dana Shannon lives in what was once the Weaver family's home in Lawrence, Kansas, now known as the Firebird Bed & Breakfast. The house is virtually the same as it was in 1857, when thirteen-year-old James Baylor Weaver lived there and when Kansas was just a territory. The first guests to arrive at the newly opened B & B are an odd couple who ask too many questions and sneak around late at night looking for a mysterious document that is linked somehow to the Delaware Indians. In this sequel to Steal Away Home (Macmillan, 1994/VOYA April 1995), the story of runaway slaves mingles with the fate of the Lenni Lenape Indians, as two teenagers from different centuries become caught up in the mystery. The author alternates chapters about the Weavers in 1857, when the home was a stop on the Underground Railway, with the present, as Dana tries to uncover the connection between runaway slaves and the Delaware tribe. James, his friend Will, and a free Negro named Solomon travel hundreds of miles to Kentucky to bring four slaves to freedom in Kansas. The journey takes Will's life and tests James's strength, courage, and character, when he must choose between betraying the slaves who have grown as close to him as family, or an Indian tribe. This title is both an intriguing contemporary mystery and an exciting historical novel. The author accurately depicts Lawrence, the Kansas Territory, and historical events in the mid-1850s, including the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Underground Railroad, and the Dred Scott decision. This novel is sure to join Steal Away Home on the sixth-grade reading list in Lawrence, Kansas, as well as many other cities. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most,marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2000, Simon & Schuster, Ages 12 to 15, 320p, $17. Reviewer: Anne Liebst
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-This is a disappointing sequel to Steal Away Home (Macmillan, 1994), which told the exciting story of Dana Shannon's discovery of a skeleton in the closet-the body of Miz Lizbet Charles, a runaway slave hidden in her house, which was once a stop on the Underground Railroad. As this book opens, a mysterious stranger is snooping around, trying to dig up the yard by the house, which Dana's parents have converted into a bed-and-breakfast. Dana, now 13, enlists her friends' help to uncover the man's identity and mission. As this contemporary story unfolds, alternating chapters tell the story of James Baylor Weaver, who lived in the house in the 1850s, and who became a well-known architect. With all of the material the author tries to incorporate-the bloody struggle in Kansas between free- and slave-state factions, courageous runaway slaves, a dangerous journey-the plot is overloaded. At the last minute, an important subplot surfaces, adding to the crowded and confusing cast of characters. None of the figures emerges as fully realized or even believable and the modern story is further weighted down by stereotypes and dialogue that tries too hard to be hip and fun. Virginia Hamilton's House of Dies Drear (Macmillan, 1968) and Jennifer Armstrong's Steal Away (Scholastic, 1993) are just two titles that tell similar tales more effectively.-Cyrisse Jaffee, formerly at Newton Public Schools, MA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this ambitious but convoluted piece of semi-fiction, Lois Ruby builds a story from historical facts surrounding the Underground Railroad. Meant as a companion to Steal Away Home (not reviewed) Ruby sets her narrative in alternating chapters that bounce back and forth by 150 years. In the late-20th century Dana lives with her parents in a bed & breakfast, a house that was once a stop on the Underground Railroad and occupied by the young James Weaver. When Dana catches their first guests prowling around late at night in the closets and bathrooms, she tries to piece together how this is linked to the rich history of the house and to the demise of the Delaware Indians. Meanwhile, in the 1857 chapters, the reader learns how events transpired as we follow James Weaver on a harrowing trek to bring a family of slaves to freedom. After many miles and many dangers James and those in his care are nearly home-free when he is forced to make a devastating choice between saving the slaves with whom he has traveled so long and hiding the treaty which could save Delaware Indians and their land. Ruby drafts her main characters, James and Dana, with care and depth, but a number of peripheral characters are mere tracings. It is easy to become disoriented by the jumble of people and events and the flip-flopping of time periods is disconcerting. By dramatizing these episodes, Ruby recreates the evils waged against both Native Americans and African-Americans in this country, but this effort would have been more successful had she concentrated on the historical half of her tale. (Fiction. 8-12)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780689835797
Publisher:
Aladdin
Publication date:
01/28/2002
Edition description:
Repackage
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
659,823
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.74(h) x 0.91(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Chapter Two: A LEG TO STAND ON March 1857

Two days before James's thirteenth birthday, the snow finally let up, and he opened the door to a boy with one leg and a crutch that dug inches into the snow because he leaned his weight that way.

"Will Bowers, mercy, what's happened to thee?"

"It's plain cold out here, James Weaver." Will's voice cracked with weariness.

A wave of stinging air sucked James's breath away. "Well, here, let me take thy kit bag."

Will hoisted his weight onto that flimsy crutch and swung himself into the house. James couldn't take his eyes off the leg that wasn't there.

"Got shot," Will said, lowering himself onto the bench at the kitchen table. A pinned-up trouser leg hung like a sack below the bench. Dried blood had turned it the color of an ax left to rust in the rain. Will eyed a plate covered with one of Ma's embroidered flour-sack tea towels.

James offered him a biscuit that was no better than hardtack, but Will swallowed it in two bites without even a smear of butter or apple jelly. He ate right through the rest of the biscuits like he hadn't had supper, or dinner before that.

"Surgeon sawed it off."

James's stomach lurched. He kept hearing Grandpa Baylor's voice: "I tell you, boy, a man doesn't have a leg to stand on unless he's honest to the bone," and now Grandpa Baylor was gone and Ma was on her way back from burying him in Boston, and here Will Bowers hadn't but one leg to stand on.

"It was the Border Ruffians did it." Will dabbed at every crumb on the table until he had a good supply to suck off his finger.

"At least thee's alive," James said, although he wondered ifhe'd want to be alive with only one leg. What did it look like inside that sack? Was it as raw as fresh meat, or had it healed over into ropy scars?

"Funny thing is, I still feel it."

"Feel what, Will?"

"A whole leg. There's a blister on my heel from a wet boot. Itches on the bottom of my foot, too."

It was too gruesome to think about, so James said, "Ma's been gone to Boston to bury my grandfather. She and my sister have been gone three months. Pa and I thought they'd be back by Christmas, but here it is the first of March. Until the last day or two, the snow's been too deep for travel cross-country. Doesn't stop my pa, though. He's over in Topeka on Kansas Territory business."

"Some things never change."

"Oh, Will, I'm mighty sorry about thy leg."

Will petted the stump as if it were a dog nipping at him under the table. "Guess I'm lucky. Didn't I stand right there at your door last September and say I might come back in a box?"

"Thee did. Thee caused quite a stir in my house." James chuckled. "I'd have gone with thee, but it's not the Quaker way. My ma and pa would have had fits."

Will filled his palm with salt from the little salt-cellar and licked his hand clean.

"Thee's starving." James jumped up and brought Will back some jerky and a cup of cold tea.

"What would you have done over there at Pottawatomie with John Brown's posse, James?" Will chewed away on that dried meat strip. "Talked to them pretty with all your thees and thous? That would have turned two or three dozen proslavers back and made them kneel and say their prayers right out loud."

James felt his scalp prickle, coward that he was. Here they were, living right on the edge of Kansas Territory, which was free, and Missouri, which was a slave state. Border skirmishes were raging all around them. Every Lawrence man had taken up arms, except Dr. Olney and Pa and half a dozen other men in town who were Quakers. Mercy, even one of the Quakers was keeping a rifle clean and greased, just in case.

Flaring with anger -- or was it shame? -- James asked, "Why's thee here instead of at thy own place?"

"It's four more blocks. Try walking halfway across Kansas on a crutch."

"There's another reason."

"Which is?"

"Only thee knows. But I suspect it has something to do with being afraid to go home."

"I'm not afraid of anything. I've followed John Brown into a raid on a camp of Border Ruffians. Sliced one up myself. I watched that doctor take off my leg with just a shot of whiskey to dull the ache."

James shuddered. "There's a draft in here."

"Heck, I'm not afraid of anything," Will said again. "Except my ma. She'll fall over dead when she sees me like this. Reckon I can stay here tonight? I can face Ma better when the sun's just coming up."

James glanced at the spot in front of the fire where the cat, Trembles, raced her motor. Weeks ago Solomon, who was a free Negro, had lain on a pallet by that fire, sweating through his typhoid fever while Miz Lizbet had nursed him back to health.

Miz Lizbet. What a vexing woman she was, but how James missed her! Six weeks had passed since she'd died in this house.

Then Will startled him with a question: "Still harboring runaway slaves?"

"Thee knew?"

"Everybody in town knew, except your pa."

"Naw, not anymore, we're not."

"So, you letting me stay here tonight like those runaways did? Least I'm not against any law."

"We could make thee up a pallet on the floor by the fire. Thee wouldn't have to manage stairs."

Will nodded. "I swear, I could sleep a week."

And he nearly did. He slept around the clock until Ma and Rebecca came back after being gone to Boston for three long months and found a one-legged boy asleep in the parlor.

Copyright © 2000 by Lois Ruby

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Meet the Author

Lois Ruby is the author of several novels, including Steal Away Home, which was named an IRA Young Adults' Choice and a Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies (NCSS/CBC). Before she turned to writing, she was a young adult librarian for the Dallas Public Library. In her spare time she serves on the board of Inter-Faith Inn, a homeless shelter in Wichita, Kansas, and sometimes teaches minicourses to seventh and eighth graders. “The place I feel most comfortable,” she says, “is among teenagers, laughing.” The mother of three sons, she lives in Wichita with her husband, Thomas.

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Soon Be Free 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story is very interesting, however, there are many characters and the olde English used in the 1857 timeframe makes it difficult to read for a 5th grader. [SPOILER] The whole chapter near the end about the treaty being signed and re-deeded was very complex story line for an 11 year-old to follow.