A Children’s Book Review Seven Middle Grade Books for African American History Month Pick
Fans of Elijah of Buxton, Trouble Don’t Last, and Stealing Freedom will be drawn to this tale of the incredible journey of an abused twelve-year-old white girl and an escaped slave girl who run away together and form a bond of friendship while seeking freedom.
Every day is a misery for a nameless, motherless Southern girl who is treated cruelly by her pa and brothers. Her life changes forever when a runaway slave named Zenobia turns to her for help and shelter. Longing for her own freedom, the girl decides to run away, and she and Zenobia set off on a harrowing journey. Along the way, Zenobia names the girl Lark, after the bird, for her ability to mimic its song.
Running by night, hiding by day, the girls are pursued by Lark’s pa and brothers and by ruthless slave catchers. Brightwell, another runaway slave, joins them, and the three follow secret signs to a stop on the Underground Railroad. When the hideout is raided and Zenobia and Brightwell are captured, Lark sets out alone to rescue her friends.
A CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book of the Year
An International Reading Association Best Chapter Book of the Year
A Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Master List Selection
A Great Stone Face Book Award Nominee
A New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment Book Award Selection
A Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards Selection
"Lush, detailed, total-immersion storytelling."Kirkus Reviews
"Distinguished by lively descriptions and dialogue."Publisher's Weekly
"A gripping historical novel . . . heart-stopping, heart-racing and eventually heart-easing.Library Voice
"Powerful debut novel."International Reading Association
"An essential read for those interested in American history."San Louis Obispo Tribune
"A gritty, engrossing tale.Slo Coast Journal
|Publisher:||Random House Children's Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.80(d)|
|Age Range:||9 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Sharon Lovejoy is an award winning, bestselling author and illustrator of non-fiction books about nature and gardening for children and adults. This is her debut novel. She divides her time between the Central Coast of California and Maine.
Read an Excerpt
ALONG THE BANK OF THE CATOCTIN CRICK IN VIRGINIA, 1858
Memories must be tended like a fire,
elstwise they'll die.
Mama give her last breath just as I took my first.
Although Pa and my big brothers never said they blamed me for her death, I always felt it achin inside me, like the rotten tooth our blacksmith pliered out of my mouth. Why else would a pa and his boys let a little girl come into the world and live for twelve years without givin her a name?
My brothers and Pa always looked through me, as though I weren't but a thin sheet of mica between them and the world. Sometimes I had to step outside to see my shadow afore I knowed for sure that there were a real person inside me.
Even though I never knowed Mama, I pieced her together in my head the way I made my patchwork rag doll, Hannah. After my grandpa passed and his stories about my mama quieted, I grabbed on to the threads of Pa's and my brothers' mentions of her, which weren't often, and needled them into my own life.
Stop a sneeze before it comes to the table
or death will visit soon.
"Girl!" Pa shouted, and slammed his fist on the table. "More scrapple. I tole you plenty of times, I don't want nothin useless on my farm. You'd best start earnin your keep."
"My farm," he'd said, but as long as I were alive, it would always belong to my grandpa. Pa never worked the farm; he were born tired and raised lazy.
I scrambled acrost the dark kitchen and scraped the leavins out of the iron skillet and onto his plate. Pa never looked up or thanked me. He leant low over his food, turned his spoon sideways, and pushed big chunks of greasy scrapple into his mouth.
I hid my eyes behind a curtain of hair and looked for the best way out. Though I knowed every bit of this kitchen, from the ceilin beams hung with herbs to the wide pine floorboards, I needed a clear pathway, free of guns and legs. When Pa got into one of his moods, I had to get out of his wayand fast. I felt the hot flush move up my neck and flare into my cheeks the way it always does when I am mad. I didn't want Pa to feel my scairt or see my mad or I'd get kicked like one of the huntin hounds.
I might not have worked out in the fields, but I weren't lazy. I were the one who cooked our food, kept up the cabin, done the washin, mended, and tended our garden and animals. I squared my chin and bit down on my tongue to keep it from waggin me into trouble again.
My brothers and Pa left the table without a word; the door left open behind them. They walked out onto the porch, and Delia and Bathsheba, Grandpa's hounds, uncurled, shook, and loped after them. I heard a round of barkin and yippin, as though the hounds thought they was goin on a coon hunt.
I stood at the window and watched till they passed my tomater patch and turned the corner at the barn; then I pulled Mama's quilt off my bed and took it outside. I shook it good, spread it out along the porch rail to air, and run my hand over its fineness. My mama had worked the straightest, tiniest stitches into her quilts, but my needlework on my old pieced Hannah doll, it looked like the jaggedy scar that runs up the side of my leg.
I went back indoors and sank down onto the three-legged stool. The long cherrywood table, cut and milled on Grandpa's land and built by him, were strewn with food and grease. Grandpa, my mama's father, had been the onliest piece of softness in the family, a big, curly-headed Irishman who called me Girl like all the others, but when we was alone, my name were always Sweet Girl. And when we was alone and I cried over the things Pa and my brothers done to me, well, Grandpa always told me that bad beginnins are a sign of a good endin. I hoped I didn't have to wait too long for the good to come.
Grandpa teached me what I knowed about the starsturned them from strangers to friends. He showed me how to plant by the moon and what wild herbs were for pickin and eatin, healin or hurtin. He learnt me how to shoot a gun till I were near as good as him. By my eighth birthday, I could hit a corncob stuck on top of the fence clear acrost the barnyard. He knowed all the animals and how to talk to them and care for them. He give that charm over to me to carry on. Two years ago, on the day he died, I felt like most of my world, leastwise the good parts of it, went into the grave with him.
I needed to pay Grandpa some respect. After I finished up the breakfast mess, I'd clean his table proper-like and work some of my beeswax into it to bring on a shine.
I picked up my sand bucket and lye, but afore I began scrubbin the floors, I set down and leant on my elbows. "Mama," I said aloud, "I made it safe through this mornin without gettin into trouble." My stomach grumbled. I slid some of the leftovers off of Pa's and my brothers' plates and sopped up the juices and grease with a heavy piece of yesterday's corn bread. "Thanks, Mama," I said. "You remembered my birthday and made me a cake." I closed my eyes, gnawed into the corn bread, and smiled. It tasted like angel food.
From outside, I heard somethin scuffle acrost the front porch. I jumped up and tucked the last of the dried-out bread into my pocket alongside some minty wintergreen leaves and the lucky buckeye Grandpa had always carried with him. Lord save me if Pa ever found me sittin down in the middle of the day. I blanked my face, smoothed my apron, and picked up a pile of dirty plates. The sound come again. I walked toward the door, then stopped midstride and listened. Catoctin Crick, so much a part of my life that I don't usually hear its noisesomeness, filled the cabin with its rain-fed roar.
The floorboards thrummed under my bare feet as someone walked along the porch, then stopped near the Catalpa tree. I stood, plates askew, cocked my head like a hooty owl, listened. Then I shivered. My head prickled like it did this mornin when my brother Samuel sneezed at the tablea sure sign of death comin soon.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.5 stars The year is 1858 and as Girl was born, her mother left the world. She lived with her Pa and her brothers who choose to treat her harshly and relentless and when a Negra girl shows up in her yard, she realized that although she thought their two worlds were different, they were rather the same. With a bounty on her head, Zenobia is taken in by the compassionate Girl, who knows the consequences of her actions should her family find out. Speaking to her mother whose spirit she feels occupies the room, she asks for guidance and together, the two girls set off for freedom. One girl knowing what waits outside the door, the other knowing what freedom she is leaving behind and both of them knowing that they are prisoners to the people around them. As they head to Waterford, they are not alone for long, as they meet others on the Underground Railroad. It’s a new world for Girl and Zenobia has a companion to keep her company. The hidden dangers for these two young girls are the slave hunters who live for the bounty posters, the dollars filling their pockets. Each girl is searching for their freedom and their posters represent just how much they are worth to society. As their journey pushes forward, I enjoyed how the story made me realized the emotional turmoil the girls were facing, their own lives were at stake plus the bonds they had made with others. The poster for Girl, although she is not a slave, there is this desire to bring her in but why and what will become of her? This shift from the need to pursue Zenobia to now finding Girl, these girls both have bounties on their heads and it put an edge on the search. Can they possibility stay together or will they make it to the Promise Land?
I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a book as much as I did Sharon Lovejoy's "Running Out of Night"! I was captivated from the very first page, felt every emotion each character went through, enjoyed the dialect of the times, as well as the many interesting bits of folklore and quotes Sharon included throughout her story. I simply could not put it down! I highly recommend "Running Out of Night" for everyone, of all ages. Sharon Lovejoy is a master at weaving her tale of two young girls and their harrowing accounts of escaping slavery. I hope to see a sequel to this fabulous novel!... Julie Marie Vicknair