* “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
The 2003 Scott O’ Dell Award for Historical Fiction
A Booklist Top 10 First Novel
A Booklist Top Ten Historical Fiction for Youth
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.
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
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.
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)