The Freedom Riddle

The Freedom Riddle

by Angela Shelf Medearis, John Ward
     
 

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It’s Christmas on Master Brown’s plantation and, like Christmas everywhere, that means it’s time for gift giving. There are no ordinary gifts on the plantation, though. Here, there is a special tradition: when two people see each other, the first to say “Christmas gift” receives a special present.

Overview

It’s Christmas on Master Brown’s plantation and, like Christmas everywhere, that means it’s time for gift giving. There are no ordinary gifts on the plantation, though. Here, there is a special tradition: when two people see each other, the first to say “Christmas gift” receives a special present.

Jim, a slave, seizes the opportunity to ask Master Brown for a gift—the gift of his freedom. There’s just one catch—first Jim has to come up with a riddle that the master cannot answer. Through spring, summer, and fall, Jim struggles to come up with the perfect riddle. By Christmas, he’s ready with the riddle that will win his right to be free forever.

Based on a true story first told to writer William Faulkner, The Freedom Riddle makes an important statement about freedom and history that will resonate with readers of all ages. A perfect book for Black History month that will be enjoyed again at Christmas.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
At Christmas time on Master Brown's plantation, the first person to say "Christmas Gift" receives a present. A slave named Jim decided that he would try catch his master out. When asked what gift he would like, he decided to offer a challenge. If he could think up a riddle that the master couldn't answer, then Jim would win his freedom. During the course of a year, Jim develops his riddle while readers learn about plantation life. On the following Christmas, Jim succeeds in developing a riddle that Master Brown cannot solve and cleverly secures his freedom.
Children's Literature
Jim, a slave in Virginia, wants more than anything to be free. On Christmas, Jim seizes his opportunity and asks his master for his freedom. Jim knows that asking is not enough, but maybe he could win his freedom by making a riddle that the master can't solve. His master agrees, and Jim spends the next year crafting his riddle. When Christmas arrives again, Jim is ready to present his riddle. Based on a true story, this book takes the reader on a year journey in a slave's life. The reader gets to see how slaves celebrated Christmas with song, dance, and food. It also shows why Christmas was such a special time on the plantation. This story also provides a glimpse into what plantation life was like. The realistic art compliments the text and brings the Christmas traditions to life. This story celebrates the creativity, intelligence, and courage of a man who wants freedom more than anything. 2002 (orig. 1995), Gingham Dog Press/McGraw-Hill Children's Publishing, Ages 7 to 10.
—Louise Parsons
Hazel Rochman
Based on a true story told to William Faulkner, this picture book is about a clever slave who wins his freedom. During the festivities at Christmas on the plantation, Jim, the slave foreman, gets Master Brown to agree to a bargain: if Jim can stump the master with a riddle, Jim will be free. For a whole year on the plantation, Jim works out his riddle and memorizes his verses. The next Christmas when the master can't guess the answer, he keeps his word and sets Jim free. The harshness of slavery is here, but it's in the background. The realistic, full-page pictures show the Christmas fun, and the focus is on Jim as a proud, dignified man. The riddle itself isn't very interesting, since Jim sets up all the clues in advance; but as Medearis says in her note, the appeal of the story is that Jim uses his brain to gain his freedom.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780525674696
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/01/1995
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
8.40(w) x 10.34(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
7 Years

Meet the Author

With over 70 books in print, Angela Shelf Medearis is an author who combines a great love for children's literature with a particular attention to the reading needs of young African Americans. "I write the kind of books I always longed to find in the library when I was a child", she says. Books were an essential part of Medearis's own early 1960's childhood, giving her a sense of continuity and identity throughout her family's many moves.

Today, she spends as much time encouraging literacy in all students as she does promoting African-American subjects. Medearis founded and directs Book Boosters, a multicultural program for all grade levels that concentrates on reading, creative writing and drama. She currently works as a reading consultant for the McGraw-Hill Reading Program. Mrs. Medearis lives in Austin, Texas.

John Ward is the award-winning illustrator of thirteen books for children. His awards include an Award of Excellence from the Society of Illustrators, NYC, 40th Annual Exhibition, and the Parent’s Choice award for Poppa’s New Pants. He lives in Freeport, NY with his wife, Olympia, where he is an avid player of West African hand drums.

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