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Middle Grade Fiction 100
(Updated: January 03, 2022)
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What worked: Strong, inspiring historical of two enslaved children's escape from a plantation to a hidden place in the swamps. This story is based loosely on The Great Dismal Swamp, a place where previously enslaved runaways sought freedom until the end of the Civil War. I didn't know about this place. Once again, it reinforces my strong belief that the history of all needs to be taught.

Twelve-year-old Homer and his little sister Ada escape from a plantation and stumble onto a secret community-Freewater-deep in the swamps. I love how this book shows Homer and Ada's encounters with others like them hidden away from those who mean to keep them enslaved. The homes hidden in the swamp show the perseverance and overwhelming quest to be free.

There's a number of different characters in this novel. Anna, the 'strange' enslaved girl with a scar on her back that wants to escape to find her mother up North. Sanzi and Juna, two children born free in the swamps. Ferdinand, who taunts Sanzi, but carries his own secret on how he came in possession of a knife he refuses to put down. Billy, whose overwhelming fear of being recaptured causes him to stutter. And Freewater itself with its vivid descriptions of sky bridges, secret doorways, hidden protections, and more.

There are scenes of harsh cruelty to the enslaved such as Homer's mother being brutally whipped as an example to other enslaved people not to run away. The life of an enslaved person isn't sugar-coated but shown in a realistic light. Emotional, powerful, and a story hard to put down.

Well-researched empowering story where two protagonists find a hidden community of those resisting being enslaved. A must add to any school library. As a former educator, I feel strongly that this book should be included in curriculum units that deal with slavery. Stories like FREEWATER are important and need to be shared.
Good Points
1. Powerful historical based loosely on The Great Dismal Swamp, an unknown piece of history where thousands of former enslaved runaways sought refuge
2. Engaging, inspiring story of hope, faith, and the quest for freedom
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