A fast-paced tale. Kids will find Jordan's reactions to his suddenly subhuman statusaffecting and believable.
VOYA - Cindy Lombardo
Juxtaposing modern times and pre-Civil War days, Whitmore crafts a compelling story of a young boy's struggle for identity in the face of peer pressure and lack of male guidance. Twelve-year-old Jordan Scott is determined to stay in "the hood" rather than move to the suburbs with his mother and sister. Intrigued by the security and recognition that gang life seems to offer, Jordan is prepared to pawn his grandfather's cherished gold watch as the price of entry into the Cobras. However, on his way to a meeting Jordan finds himself flung back in time to a place where he can no longer take his personal freedom for granted. Forced to pick cotton with the other slaves, Jordan learns first hand about the cruelty and disregard for human life that characterized life on a plantation. As he comes to know and respect the black men and women who surround him, he realizes that he has a responsibility beyond simply finding the watch and returning to the present. Thanks to the care and compassion of the slaves, Jordan begins to understand that being a man means standing up for what one knows is right, no matter what the personal risk may be.
Whitmore smoothly weaves the strands of history with the quest for personal identity into a story that powerfully illustrates the horrors of slave life. This would be excellent supplementary reading for anyone studying the Civil War or the role that slavery played in the evolution of American culture. Most teens will not pick this up on their own (although the cover art and title may spark interest), so it is an excellent candidate for classroom booktalking.
VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Deciding to leave home to join the hood's crew, twelve-year-old Jordan steals his grandfather's heirloom pocket watch. Before he can pawn it, the watch transports him to a nineteenth-century plantation. His adventures as a slave convince Jordan to get back to his century and rethink his life. A piquant touch is Whitmore's revelation in the author's note of learning of her own partial Afro-American heritage in the course of researching this book.
Whitmore (The Bread Winner, 1990) writes about a modern child who is uninterested in the suffering of his ancestors until he is forced to live it. Jordan, told to bring money to the gang he has just joined, steals his grandfather's pocket watch, which transports him back in time to the days of slavery. He is put to work as a slave on the plantation where his ancestor, Uriah, is a boy. Determined to find the watch - the key to his return - Jordan works in the cotton fields, is whipped, gets sold, and joins the Underground Railroad before finding his way back to his own time, where the gang waits to make an example of him for trying to get out. This is an exciting read; Whitmore packs in as much information about slavery as possible, which only occasionally interferes with the flow of the story. Jordan's awakening to his heritage and to the consequences of his actions in the present are well done and, in the context of the story, believable. (Fiction. 11-13) .