My review of this utterly fabulous book is now live at Kids Book Review – check it out and make sure you get a copy – you won’t be sorry!
The wonderful thing about well-written, well-researched historical fiction is that you don’t just learn new information but that you can immerse yourself in the period and gain a far greater understanding than dry textbooks will offer. I openly admit that I know very little about the American Civil War beyond a little reading and several movies (after all, who hasn’t watched Gone With the Wind at least a dozen times?).
Hence I had no idea about the freed slaves who were part of Sherman’s march across Georgia – nor indeed the dreadful ending so many of them had. Naturally I knew that not all the Yankees were accepting of the freed slaves but to read of such vile wickedness is quite confronting.
Mariah and her young brother Zeke are freed from their heinous slavery and are two of the hundreds in the march. Caleb, a free-born man, is an indispensable assistant to the kind and compassionate Captain Galloway and takes on the role of protector, and indeed would be family to them both.
Along the often harsh march the ex-slaves share their various dreadful histories revealing much of a truly horrendous endurance. But it is not all history as many perish at the hands of cruel supposed liberators even in the midst of their hopes and dreams of freedom.
The terrible crime at Ebenezer Creek needs to be told and told it is in the context of real human anguish and pain. Bolden has done a remarkable job of bringing this to the attention of young readers with the dignity and empathy that its victims deserve.
The frightening aspect is that so little has changed in many ways – either in the USA or here with our own First Australians – who are often still victimised and persecuted simply on the basis of race. Hopefully, there are enough of us who are prepared to continue to stand up to this schism in our society and eventually eradicate the evil forever.
Highly recommended for discerning readers from around 12 years upwards.
Imprint: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Series: Secrets of the Seven
If you’ve ever watched Nic Cage in the National Treasure movies (and who hasn’t?) I would liken this to those – except for youngsters.
While I think our Australian readers will be at a slight disadvantage not knowing a great deal if anything about the Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin or Benedict Arnold, I think they will still enjoy the adventure and the tricky puzzles.
Sam Solomon is a clever boy with a penchant for all things cryptic. He also has a real talent for mischief which does not endear him to his middle school teachers. When Sam unexpectedly wins a trip exploring the breadth of the United States, including national landmarks and amazing natural wonders, he is wildly excited.
From the outset Sam is truly baffled by the experience when it turns out that it is just Sam and a very nerdy girl of the same age who were the winners. Accompanied by a strange woman, Evangeline, and an almost silent boy named Theo, the American Dream Contest seems more like a nightmare. It turns out Sam and Martina were the only contestants capable of solving the complex puzzles of the competition and this is exactly what is required to track down the hidden historical artefacts, concealed by the Founding Fathers to protect Benjamin Franklin’s greatest invention – a powerful weapon.
Naturally it is not just the ‘good guys’ trying to locate the ‘keys’ and the children soon themselves embroiled in a dangerous treasure hunt caught between opposite ideologies.
This is an exciting read with a great pace – creative thinkers will particularly enjoy it.
Recommended for readers from around 10 upwards.