Trouble Don't Last

( 33 )

Overview

Eleven-year-old Samuel was born as Master Hackler’s slave, and working the Kentucky farm is the only life he’s ever known—until one dark night in 1859, that is. With no warning, cranky old Harrison, a fellow slave, pulls Samuel from his bed and, together, they run.

The journey north seems much more frightening than Master Hackler ever was, and Samuel’s not sure what freedom means aside from running, hiding, and starving. But as they move from one refuge to the next on the ...

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Overview

Eleven-year-old Samuel was born as Master Hackler’s slave, and working the Kentucky farm is the only life he’s ever known—until one dark night in 1859, that is. With no warning, cranky old Harrison, a fellow slave, pulls Samuel from his bed and, together, they run.

The journey north seems much more frightening than Master Hackler ever was, and Samuel’s not sure what freedom means aside from running, hiding, and starving. But as they move from one refuge to the next on the Underground Railroad, Samuel uncovers the secret of his own past—and future. And old Harrison begins to see past a whole lifetime of hurt to the promise of a new life—and a poignant reunion—
in Canada.

In a heartbreaking and hopeful first novel, Shelley Pearsall tells a suspenseful, emotionally charged story of freedom and family. Trouble Don't Last includes a historical note and map.

Samuel, an eleven-year-old Kentucky slave, and Harrison, the elderly slave who helped raise him, attempt to escape to Canada via the Underground Railroad.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
* “This memorable portrayal . . . proves gripping from beginning to end.”–Starred, Publishers Weekly

* “A thrilling escape story, right until the last chapter.”–Starred, Booklist

“Strong characters and an innovative, suspenseful plot distinguish Pearsall’s first novel . . . A compelling story.”–School Library Journal

“One of the best underground railroad narratives in recent years . . . This succeeds as a suspenseful historical adventure.”–Kirkus Reviews

“Pearsall’s heartbreaking, yet hopeful story provides a fine supplement to lessons on slavery.”–Teacher Magazine

AWARDS

The 2003 Scott O’ Dell Award for Historical Fiction

A Booklist Top 10 First Novel

A Booklist Top Ten Historical Fiction for Youth

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly
An 11-year-old boy and the elderly captive who helped raise him seek escape via the Underground Railroad. In a starred review, PW wrote, "This memorable portrayal of their haphazard, serendipitous and dangerous escape to freedom proves gripping from beginning to end." Ages 8-12. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
First time novelist Shelley Pearsall has woven a remarkable tale about a pair of runaway slaves and their flight to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Slavery is the only reality that eleven-year-old Samuel has ever known. His mother was sold away from his Kentucky homestead when Samuel was just a toddler. Since then, it has just been Samuel and his elderly guardians, Harrison and Lily. When Harrison steals him away in the middle of the night, Samuel is sure that trouble will come from it. Through spine tingling close calls and hair-raising adventures, old Harrison and Samuel creep closer to elusive Freedom. Along the way, they are aided by colorful characters, most of them based on real life figures. Thoroughly researched, packed with action, suspense, humor and great plot twists, this is one you'll remember for a long time. 2002, Knopf, $14.95. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Christopher Moning
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Strong characters and an inventive, suspenseful plot distinguish Pearsall's first novel, a story of the Underground Railroad in 1859. Samuel, the 11-year-old slave who narrates the story, is awakened by 70-year-old Harrison, who has decided to flee their tyrannical Kentucky master. The questions that immediately flood the boy's mind provide the tension that propels the novel: What has precipitated the old man's sudden desire for freedom? Why would he risk taking Samuel along? Harrison is mindful of the dangers and wary of trusting even the strangers who might offer help. Samuel, an impulsive boy who seems prone to trouble, is grudgingly accustomed to his life of servitude and reluctant to leave it. As days of hiding and nights of stealthy movement take them farther away from their former lives, Harrison and Samuel forge a bond that strengthens their resolve. Faith, luck, and perseverance see the man and boy safely into Canada, where a new journey-one of self-discovery and self-healing-begins. Pearsall's extensive research is deftly woven into each scene, providing insight into plantation life, 19th-century social mores, religious and cultural norms, and the political turmoil in the years preceding the Civil War. Samuel's narrative preserves the dialect, the innocence, the hope, and even the superstitions of slaves like Harrison and himself, whose path to freedom is filled with kindness and compassion as well as humiliation and scorn. This is a compelling story that will expand young readers' understanding of the Underground Railroad and the individual acts of courage it embraced.-William McLoughlin, Brookside School, Worthington, OH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
At fellow slave Harrison's insistence, young Samuel is catapulted into an escape attempt from a Kentucky plantation that has been his whole world. Troublesome Sam has been in the care of elderly Lilly and Harrison since the sale of his mother long ago. Life has been so circumscribed by his condition of slavery that it is hard for him to understand the stakes or even want to succeed. Samuel's naivete is realistic but almost irritatingly persistent as danger mounts. Old man Harrison, whose creative ethics and gritty determination guide them on their way, is increasingly revealed as a complex man, and Samuel gradually gains an understanding of himself and the world around him. The vile nature of slavery is not underplayed as the notion of owning a person clearly creates both horrendous hubris and evil in the owner as well as tremendous pain and suffering of the owned. One of the best underground railroad narratives in recent years, Pearsall's portrayal of both helping and helped are more rounded and complex than the more simplistic view often espoused. Greed, hypocrisy, and sanctimonious paternalism are clearly perceived by the fugitives dependent on these strangers who hold lives in their hands. This succeeds as a suspenseful historical adventure with survival at stake and makes clear that to succeed Harrison and Samuel, as well as others, must never give up even while combating manhunters, bloodhounds, mental illness, disease, hunger, cold, and their own despair. (Fiction. 11-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440418115
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 12/9/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 194,395
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.63 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

A former middle school teacher and historian, Shelley Pearsall is now working on her next historical novel and leading writing workshops for children.

Trouble Don’t Last is her first novel.

Pearsall did extensive research while writing Trouble Don’t Last and traveled to towns along the escape route–including crossing the Ohio River in a boat and visiting a community in Chatham, Ontario, another destination for runaway slaves. “I’ve found that learning about history in an imaginative way often sticks with students longer than review questions in a text-book,” says Pearsall.

AUTHOR'S NOTE

The Underground Railroad is a familiar American story. It is filled with dramatic tales of secret rooms, brave abolitionists, and midnight journeys. But sometimes the real heroes of the story–the runaways themselves–are left in the background. What did they think and feel as they tried to reach freedom? What was their journey like? Whom did the runaways trust and whom did they fear? This book grew from my wondering about these questions. . . .

In my research, I learned that the Underground Railroad was not a clear, organized network that led runaways from the South to the North. Actually, the term referred to any safe routes or hiding places used by runaways–so there were hundreds, even thousands of "underground railroads."

Most runaways traveled just the way that Samuel and Harrison did–using whatever temporary hiding places or means of transportation they could find. As the number of actual railroad lines increased throughout the country in the 1850's, some runaways even hid on railroad cars when travelling from one place to another. They called this "riding the steam cars" or "going the faster way."

I also discovered that runaways were not as helpless or ill-prepared as they are sometimes portrayed. Historical records indicate that many slaves planned carefully for their journey. They brought provisions such as food and extra clothing with them. Since transportation and guides could cost money, some slaves saved money for their escape, while others, like Samuel and Harrison, received money from individuals they met during their journey.

White abolitionists and sympathetic religious groups like the Quakers aided many runaways on the Underground Railroad. However, free African Americans played an equally important role. They kept runaways in their homes and settlements, and served as guides, wagon drivers, and even decoys.

In fact, the character of the river man is based on the real-life story of a black Underground Railroad guide named John P. Parker. Like the River Man, John Parker was badly beaten as a young slave, and so he never traveled anywhere without a pistol in his pocket and a knife in his belt. During a fifteen year period, he ferried more than 400 runaways across the Ohio River, and a $ 1000 reward was once offered for his capture. After the Civil War, he became a successful businessman in Ripley, Ohio, and patent several inventions.

I am often asked what other parts of the novel are factual. The gray yarn being sent as a sign? The baby buried below the church floor? Lung fever? Guides named Ham and Eggs?

The answer is yes. Most of the events and names used in this novel are real, but they come from many different sources. I discovered names like Ordee Lee and Ham and Eggs in old letters and records of the Underground Railroad. The character of Hetty Scott is based on a description I found in John Parker's autobiography. The heart-wrenching tale of Ordee Lee saving the locks of hair from his family comes from a slave's actual account. However, I adapted all of this material to fit into the story of Samuel and Harrison–so time periods and locations have often been changed.

One of the most memorable aspects of writing this book was taking a trip to northern Kentucky and southern Ohio in late summer. To be able to describe the Cornfield Bottoms and the Ohio River, I walked down to the river late at night to see what it looked like and how it sounded in the darkness. To be able to write about Samuel's mother, I stood on a street corner in Old Washington, Kentucky, where slaves were once auctioned. I even stayed in houses that had been in existence during the years of the Underground Railroad.

I chose the southern Ohio and northern Kentucky region for my setting since it had been a very active area for the Underground Railroad. I selected the year 1859 because Congress passed a national law called the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, which affected everyone involved in the Underground Railroad. Severe penalties such as heavy fines and jail time awaited anyone–white or black–who helped or harbored runaway slaves anywhere in the United States after 1850.

The law also required people to return runaway slaves to their owners, even if the runaways were living in free states like Ohio. African-Americans like August and Belle, who had papers to prove their freedom, were safe from capture even though their lives were sometimes restricted by local and state "black laws." However, runaway slaves were only safe if they left the country and went to places like Canada or Mexico. That is why Samuel and Harrison had to journey all the way to Canada to be free in 1859.

So, if you visited Canada today, would you still find a peaceful place called Harrison's Pond? And is there a tumbledown farmhouse somewhere in Kentucky with an old burying-ground for slaves nearby?

Harrison's Pond and Blue Ash, Kentucky, are places in my imagination, but there are many other places to visit with solemn footsteps and remember. I hope that you will.
–Shelley Pearsall

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

TROUBLE

Truth is, trouble follows me like a shadow.

To begin with, I was born a slave when other folks is born white. My momma was a slave and her momma a slave before that, so you can see we are nothing but a family of trouble. Master sold Momma before I was even old enough to remember her, and two old slaves named Harrison and Lilly had to raise me up like I was one of their own, even though I wasn't. Then, when I was in my eleventh year, the old slave Harrison decided to jump into trouble himself, and he tried to run away.

Problem was, I had to go with him.

THE BROKEN PLATE

It all started on a just-so day in the month of September 1859, when I broke my master's plate while clearing the supper table. I tried to tell Lilly that if Master Hackler hadn't taken a piece of bread and sopped pork fat all over his old plate, I wouldn't have dropped it.

But Lilly kept her lips pressed tight together, saying nothing as she scraped the vegetable scraps into the hog pails.

"And Young Mas Seth was sticking his foot this-away and that-away, tryin to trip me up," I added.

Lilly didn't even look at me, just kept scraping and scraping with her big, brown hands.

"Maybe it was a spirit--could be Old Mas Hackler's dead spirit--that got ahold of me right then and made that plate fly right outta my hands."

Lilly looked up and snorted, "Spirits. If Old Mas Hackler wanted to haunt this house, he'd go an' turn a whole table on its end, not bother with one little china plate in your hands." She pointed her scraping knife at me. "You gotta be more careful, Samuel, or they gonna sell you off sure as anything, and I can't do nothin to help you then. You understand me, child?"

"Yes'm," I answered, looking down at my feet. Every time Lilly said something like this to me, which was more often than not, it always brought up the same picture in my head. A picture of my momma. She had been sold when I was hardly even standing on my own two legs. Right after the Old Master Hackler had died. Lilly said that selling off my momma paid for his fancy carved headstone and oak burying box, but I'm not sure all that is true.

In my mind, I could see my momma being taken away in the back of Master's wagon, just the way Lilly told me. Her name was Hannah, and she was a tall, straight-backed woman with gingerbread skin like mine. Lilly said that she was wearing a blue-striped headwrap tied around her hair, and she was leaning over with her head down in her hands when they rode off. The only thing Lilly knew was that they took her to the courthouse in Washington, Kentucky, to sell her.

After my momma had gone, it had fallen on Lilly's shoulders to raise me as if I was her own boy, even though she wasn't any relation of mine and she'd already had two sons and four daughters, all sold off or dead. But she said I had more trouble in me than all six of her children rolled up together. "I gotta be on your heels day and night," she was always telling me. "And even that don't keep the bad things from happening."

When she was finished with the hog pails, Lilly came over to me. "How's that chin doin?" She lifted the cold rag I'd been holding and looked underneath. "Miz Catherine got good aim, I give her that."

After I had broken the china plate, Master Hackler's loud, redheaded wife, Miz Catherine, had flung her table fork at me. "You aren't worth the price of a broken plate, you know that?" she hollered, and sent one of the silver forks flying. Good thing I had sense enough not to duck my head down, so it hit right where she was aiming, square on my chin. Even though it stung all the way up to my ear, I didn't make a face. I was half-proud of myself for that.

"You pick up every little piece," Miz Catherine had snapped, pointing at the floor. "Every single piece with those worthless, black fingers of yours, and I'll decide what to do about your carelessness."

After that, Lilly had come barreling in to save me. She had helped me sweep up the white shards that had flown all over, and she told Miz Catherine that she would pay for the plate. Master usually gave Lilly a dollar to keep every Christmas. "What you think that plate cost?" Lilly asked Miz Catherine as she swept.

"How much do you have?" Miz Catherine sniffed.

"Maybe $4 saved up."

"Then I imagine it will cost you $4."

So the redheaded devil Miz Catherine had taken most of Lilly's savings just for my broken plate--although, truth was, Lilly really had $6 tucked away. And she had given me a banged-up chin. But, as Lilly always said, it could have been worse.

Then we heard Master Hackler's heavy footsteps coming down the hall. He walks hard on his heels, so you can always tell him from the others.

"You be quiet as a country graveyard," Lilly warned. "And gimme that cloth." Quick as anything, she snatched the cloth from my chin and began wiping a plate with it.

"Still cleaning up from supper?" Master Hackler said, peering around the doorway. "Samuel's made you mighty slow this evening, Lilly."

"Yes, he sho' has." Lilly kept her head down and wiped the plates in fast circles. "But I always git everything done, you know. Don't sleep a wink till everything gits done."

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 33 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 33 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2012

    Everyone should read Trouble Don¿t Last!

    What if you were a slave on the most important journey of your life- running away? Samuel is on that journey with Harrison, another slave he works with. With all the obstacles they have to face, will they reach freedom alive? Samuel is an eleven-year-old black slave who is raised by Lily and Harrison. They raise him because Samuel’s parents aren’t living with him. Harrison is an older man who sticks to his work because he knows that is the right thing to do. Lily is a very caring person that really helps in raising Samuel. As I read, the characters started to become my friends. The author really makes them realistic through their emotions and dialogue. The pages of the book practically turned themselves. From the moment when Harrison woke Samuel up and through every last part of their adventure, I couldn’t put the book down. I’d recommend it to boys and girls who like adventure and historical fiction. I feel everyone should read Trouble Don’t Last because it takes you on the adventure with the characters.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2012

    THIS BOOK IS AMAZING!

    I read this book and it is awsome! It has exiting twist and a shocking ending. Thats why I like it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2008

    FABULOUS!!!

    Trouble Don't Last is an AMAZING book!!! I highly recommend it. Of course, I'm only fourteen, but the plot is very well-presented and exciting. I just finished reading this book for the fourth time. Every time I read it, I love it even more. It's exciting, symbolic, and amazing. PLEASE READ THIS BOOK!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2008

    No Troubles for Trouble Don't Last

    I highly recommend Trouble Don¿t Last. Inspired by the story of the Underground Railroad and her subsequent extensive research, author Shelly Pearsall (Random House 2003) provides a veritable cornucopia of vignettes depicting the lives of two runaway slaves, Samuel and Harrison, before the Civil War. After the premature sale of his mother, 11-year-old Samuel is raised by slaves Lilly and Harrison. Samuel is your typical preteen boy who is sometimes worth his weight in trouble as he learns many lessons about how to behave in a time when black people had no worth outside of working for white people. This heart-wrenching story of escape, survival, and revelations also looks at the strength and tenacity of a young boy who didn¿t have an identity, but had managed to muster hope in hopeless situations. The author¿s note gives much impending realness and factual remnants that make this story a soon to be classic. The first person narration is almost biblical in its attempts to explain the ways of the world through a child¿s eyes during that era. This book is a solid choice for all middle school and high school students and a surely a must-have for all libraries serving diverse populations.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2006

    The best book ever

    Do you like thrilling escape stories? Do you like learning about history and slavery? Than you will love this book! This book won a Scott O¿Dell Award for historical fiction and it definitely resembles its award. trouble don¿t last is a story about a child named Samuel and an elderly man named Harrison escaping from slavery. They travel from Blue Ash, Kentucky all the way to Chatham, Canada, in 1859, searching for freedom. The main message that Shelly Pearsall tires to get into your mind is that slavery is horrible and was very hard for the blacks. Some weak points in this story are when she goes on and on without telling who is talking. Some strong points in this story are at the end of the chapter, she leaves a cliff-hanger making you want to read on and on and on. I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes to read and learn.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 6, 2011

    pretty good

    i liked it

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2011

    very exiting!

    we read this in school. i would highly recomend it!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2006

    Seriously...Troubles Don't Last

    Troubles Don't Last was a great book!! I would recommend it to anyone who likes drama and/or suspicious book. The main characters are Samuel and Harrison. Guess what Samuel and Harriso are? They are both slaves. Samuel has been a slave since he was born. He has had a lot of adventures since he ran away from his master, but guess what happened after he ran away...cause I'm not telling you.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2006

    A Great Book

    Do you like a book that has a twist? If you¿re a sixth grader or older you will like this book. This book is about Samuel, an 11 year old kid who is a slave, and Harrison, an old man who to is a slave. One night Harrison creeps into Samuel¿s room and tells him that they¿re running away. I find that this story is like Harriet Tubman and The Freedom Train. It is like it because she is a slave who uses the underground rail road to escape from her master. It is also like Circu du Freak. It is like it because Darren runs away. This book takes place in 1859 in Kentucky to Canada. This author tries to tell us about the life of a run away slave. I would say this book has it weak points like when Harrison and Samuel were hiding and they weren¿t talking. Then there are the strong points like when we found out all of Harrison¿s secrets. I would suggest this book to many people because it is very entertaining.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2006

    I like this book

    This book is a very good book. This books title is called Trouble Don¿t Last. This book is a historical fiction book that is written by Shelley Pearsall. She has written a lot of other good books and stories. An audience or person that would like this book would probably by a person that is or was interested in slavery. If I had written an opening sentence for a poem or a story to grab the audiences attention, it would be ¿Do you think slavery was good for our nation of bad?¿ This was actually a very bad thing that that our nation ever had. In one sentence, to summarize this book would be, ¿This book is about two boys, Harrison and Samuel that are running to get away from slavery. In one sentence, this book is similar to another book called ¿Freedom Train.¿ The main characters in this book are Harrison and Samuel that are both running away from slavery. They are both young boys. The setting for this book is on September, 1859 in the North and the South. The main idea of this story is for Harrison and Samuel to get away from slavery. In this book, there are really no weak or strong points in this book. I think I will encourage to read this book because I liked it and I know they will like it too.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2006

    Hip Hip hooray for Shelley Persall!

    Do you know about all of the hardships that slaves faced? Did you know how slaves had to stick together when running away? If you know about it and want to learn more, or if you know all about it already, the award-winning book, Trouble Don¿t last is right for you! Trouble Don¿t Last is about an 11 year old slave named Samuel and a much older slave named Harrison who run away. Along their way, they meet many obstacles and challenges, and even people willing to let them stay in their house. This heart-stopping suspense story will leave you on the edge of your seat!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2006

    Awsome Book!

    This book is about a slave that ran away from his master. His mom got sold. He is left will two people to take care of him a man named Harrison and a woman named Lilly. In the end he will find out Harrison's secret......

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2013

    vbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbhgjvffjdyxbskjdbdushxydfjgejxwjxdj h

    Y &***--**/-7*/+ h h

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2013

    I <3 it!!

    This sad but awesome book about slavery really touched my heart.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2013

    Anonymous

    Amazing book. I gotta give credit to Shelley Pearsall. This is my third favorite book and i have read many books.


    The story about Samuel and Harrison is addicting to hear in a good wsy

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2012

    So awesome

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2012

    I heart this book!

    I am on chapter 7 and loving it!






    .































    .






























    :D

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2011

    best

    this book is so awsome i love it ! :)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2006

    THE BEST THRILLING STORY

    This is about a 11year old boy that wanted to escape from his slave life. He didn't know his mom because she was slave and was going to be sold. The boys name was Samuel he was a slave too in Kentucky, but in 1859 Harrison took Samuel to go and run away to freedom. So, I would recommend this book to anyone that likes suspicion, thilling things, and kind of a mystery.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2005

    A page Turner!!!!, 4/24/2005

    I finished the book today and it was worth my time. Samuel finds out secrets and Both him and Harrison go on the underground railroad. it helped me understand more of what went on back then.239 pages of remarkable words!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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