Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dear America: A Picture of Freedom

Title:  Dear America:  A Picture of Freedom (The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl
Author:  Patricia C. McKissack
Setting:  Belmont Plantation, Virginia, 1859
Target Audience:  Upper Elementary--Middle

Summary:  The book is written in diary format, from the perspective of a 12-year-old slave girl who works in the kitchen on a Virginia plantation.  She taught herself to read and write while fanning the Master's son William during his lessons.  This act could earn her a severe beating if her Master finds out, as well as result in her being sold to another Master in the "Deep South"--both scary ideas.  So, she must keep her learning--and her diary--a secret from everyone.  Even the other slaves might tell on her if it means some benefit for them.  In the book, Clotee writes about her life for about 13 months.  She learns about abolitionists, the Underground Railroad, and the dangers of learning too much.

Review:  I think this book is very well-written.  There is a clear difference in Clotee's writing over the course of the book as she learns more.  The book does include some incidents which, though historically accurate, may be considered problematic, such as beatings of slaves. A few spots may be difficult to understand, due to poor English and historical words or phrasing, but I believe most readers will be able to figure out what is meant by the context.  I think reading the book may be helpful in understanding what slaves went through in early America.  A "Historical Note" at the end of the book explains how slavery ended and some important people involved, such as Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. 
**** Four stars

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