Originally Posted at Bibliophile's Retreat by Melissa Meeks
Kregel Publications (November 25, 2004 & April 30, 2008)
Reed takes readers both young and old on adventures through time and events to the underground railroad opening the doors of freedom to the slaves of the American south. Her stories revolve around the Rankin family living just north of the Ohio River where “free territory” began for the poor souls who had been brought over to work themselves to death for the wealthy plantation owners of the southern states and often be torn from family and home in the process. The first book follows Lowry one of 13 children in the family and the second follows one of his younger siblings Johnny as they assist in the family role of ushering these people into the freedom this country was founded to offer to all. In Johnny’s case aspiring to help but stumbling over his pride at the family business and blurting perhaps to the wrong parties secrets that could sink the entire operation. Reed’s narratives although intended for a pre-teen and early teen audience are rich with historical detail and characters who actually lived the events presented in these pages that capture the imagination of all ages. These vivid accounts would even make an inspiring read aloud series for younger children able to comprehend some of the historical significance and themes in the stories but not quite up to reading at this level on their own.
These would make great history lessons for a variety of ages both as a supplement to public school curriculum or included in the history curriculum of homeschool families. The characters and detail make this as close to a living history lesson as you’ll be able to find covering the events and politics that spawned the Underground Railroad as it came to be called. Though thankfully this era is past, experiencing it to the depth that Reed portrays in her books is a much more effective tool than just hearing stories or reading a history text from third and fourth hand narrators. The only more personal connection to slavery and the craving of freedom those slaves endured would be first hand accounts from ancestors who lived the nightmare or befriended those who did despite the atmosphere and societal mores placing blacks and whites in divergent categories. (ISBN#9780825435768, 176pp, $9.99) & (ISBN#9780825435744, 216pp, $10.99)
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