Chains (Seeds of America #1)Hot
As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight...for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.
From acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson comes this compelling, impeccably researched novel that shows the lengths we can go to cast off our chains, both physical and spiritual.
Chains takes place in New York at the dawn of the American Revolution. Told in the first person by Isabel, readers gain a deep understanding of the confusion and chaos during that particular time in the colonies. There were Rebels and Loyalists living side by side. There were pro and anti slavery contingents. There were slaves and free men.
One day, Isabel meets Curzon, a slave who works for Major Bellingham of the Colonical Army. Curzon tries to enlist Isabels aid, as Lockton is a Loyalist, and Isabel may overhear information that may benefit the Colonial Army. Isabel, while educated enough to read, is not educated enough to know the causes of the Revolution, the impact of either side winning and therefore who to set her alliance with.
Chains tells multiple tales at one time. It is the story of the Locktons, allied with the King in England, in the midst of Colonial rebels. It tells the story of Isabel, confused about who to trust, her overriding thoughts concern her freedom and caring for Ruth. It describes the goings on in New York, Loyalists, in the midst of fighting rebels, have a birthday gala for their Queen across the ocean. It describes Washingtons ragged army and the treatment of prisoners of war. There is so much going on in this highly enjoyable volume.
Chains can be read as the story of a slave girl or the story of life in the midst of the American Revolution. Laurie Halse Anderson is one of the premier writers of Young Adult literature and Chains is another example of her extraordinary work. And for those of you who come to like Isabel and Curzon, a sequel called Forge is in the works.
View my full review at https://sites.google.com/site/ellesbookreviews/
By Laurie Halse Anderson
5 out of 5
Review by Katie Coggins
The year is 1776, the people are split and the colonies are in the midst of war. Isabel is a 13 year old slave from Rhode Island. Before her mistress, Mary Finch, died Isabel had never worked too hard and was never hungry. After the burial of the old woman, Marys nephew immediately sells her and her sister to a loyalist couple from New York, the Locktons. Her mother had died several years earlier and her five year old sister Ruth is all she has left. The two girls make the journey to New York which is currently held by the rebels. Isabels new mistress is an awful woman and her master is a strong supporter of the king. Her first day in New York Isabel is approached by Curzon, a free African American boy. He is a patriot and wants her to give them information on the loyalist couple and their whereabouts. Isabel agrees on the condition that once she provides her service, they set her and her sister free. Isabel unravels a plot that may have even changed the course of the war, but is betrayed by both the rebels and her mistress. The horrid mistress sells Ruth for being epileptic. Isabel must fight her own battle for freedom not knowing whom to trust. Through all the chaos Mrs. Lockton manages to keep her eye on Isabel. The city of New York changes hands as the British defeat the rebels in a battle leaving the city in ruins and many soldiers in prison. One of the countless soldiers captured is Curzon who is also wounded. How will Isabel escape? Will she gain her freedom at all? Can Isabel save Curzon? Will Isabel ever find her sister?
This beautiful 300 page story has become one of my all time favorites. Its a novel of freedom, hope, and family. It has many different plots weaving throughout the basic story line. It takes the Revolutionary War to a personal level that is so real I was almost shocked when I closed its pages to find electricity and cars. Laurie Halse Anderson does a wonderful job of telling a beautiful story without having the reader needing a dictionary to decipher every word. Isabels words are short and sweet and fit her character perfectly. It is impossible not to love her. It is shockingly real and makes you wonder how the definition of moral has changed. How people rationalized slavery is still a mystery to me and is brought to your attention in this book. Chains is a winner of the Scott ODell Award for Historical Fiction, a National Book Award nominee, and a New York Times bestseller. The Christian Science Monitor said that it Knocks on the conscience of a nation. The Bulletin of the Center for Childrens Books called it Engrossing . . . a heart-racing story. I would recommend Chains to any historical fiction lovers over the age of eleven. The sequel to Chains is Forge. It is also about the same characters but is narrated by Curzon rather then Isabel. The third installment in the series is to be called Ashes and will come out sometime soon.
Freedom meant so many things during the mid-1770's in the United States. While patriots fought for their own freedom, they did so at the expense of their slaves. Laurie Halse Anderson's Chains is a tale of the struggle for freedom: The freedom of one young slave girl and her sister as well as freedom from British tyranny for American Colonists.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I need to confess a couple of things before I review this book. First, I am an ardent fan of Laurie Halse Anderson. Second, historical fiction is my weakness. Last, Colonial America and the American Revolution, in all its glorious and inglorious humanity, is my favorite point in history. Now, with all my prejudices in the open, I have to say this book took my breath away. The depth of sorrow and strength of human nature are compellingly presented from the viewpoint of a young girl, an educated slave. Often, Andersons coined words pull on the readers chain to remind us that we are observing the revolution through a young girls eyes. Also, Anderson artfully uses period semantics without being heavy handed or plodding. The use of counterpoint subtly underlines the dissonance of the slaves lifeas when Isabel is in the stockades, Anderson juxtaposes dandelions growing in the mud against the horror of being branded.
In a more tangible way, the historic setting of the novel is built into the physical book. The pages are rough and uneven; the fonts are reminiscent of the period; and the last page of the book (not including the afterword) looks like a slave auction handbill. Anderson also begins each chapter with a quote from newspapers and other primary documents of the era, including correspondence between Abigail and John Adams. In addition to the remarkable view of the days before and after the Declaration of Independence provided by Isabels story, Andersons appendix includes historical facts she uncovered in her research. As a whole, this book is an unequaled teaching tool about slavery, revolution and what it meant to be American at the birth of a nation.
(Portions of this review first appeared in my blog, YA Need Books; reprinted here with permission of the author--me!)
Laurie Halse Andersons latest historical fiction novel, Chains, is exactly the type of literature that engages young readers while encouraging them to think critically about the world, both past and present. Through her accessible writing style, thorough research, and the compelling and intelligent plot, it is clear that Anderson understands her target audience and its .
Set at the start of the Revolutionary War, Chains is the story of 13-year-old Isabel, a slave girl struggling with her own fight for freedom. After her owner dies, Isabel expects that she and her younger sister, Ruth, will be set free according to the owners will. Instead, the two girls are sold to the Locktons, a man and wife who are loyal to the king of England. The Locktons take Isabel and Ruth to their New York City home, and it isnt long before Mrs. Lockton reveals her true colors as a cruel and unsympathetic mistress. On her first day in the city, Isabel meets Curzon, a slave who is loyal to the rebel cause. He encourages Isabel to serve as a spy, with the promise of freedom as her reward. Yet, when she finds herself betrayed by both the rebels and Mrs. Lockton, who unexpectedly sends Ruth away, Isabel realizes it is up to her to secure her own freedom.
The novel poses thought-provoking questions about the concepts of friendship, loyalty, survival, and the true meaning of freedom. Educators looking to supplement a unit on the American Revolution or slavery may find Andersons book the perfect teaching tool. For readers who enjoy Isabels adventure, Anderson is writing a sequel, titled Forge.
Part Copper Sun (Sharon Draper), part The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (M.T. Anderson), and entirely Laurie Halse Anderson's amazing ability to relate serious issues to teens, Chains was (as expected) another educational, thought-provoking, and powerful young adult novel that can be used in classrooms everywhere.
At the beginning of the novel, readers see young Isabel with little sister Ruth, on the brink of freedom. Having been promised that they will be legally freed after her mistress' death, Isabel attends Miss Mary Finch's funeral with thoughts of freedom in her head. Before the funeral has even ended, Isabel's hopes and dreams are snatched away by her deceased owner's nephew who refuses to honor his aunt's promise. Robert Finch quickly sells the two girls in a tavern to the highest bidder. Isabel and Ruth are sold to the Lockton's, a powerful, wealthy Loyalist couple who are doing everything in their power to stop the American Revolution.
Subjected to horrors that even adults couldn't survive, Isabel serves the Lockton's while deciding which side to help in the Revolution. Which group will set her free? Patriots or Loyalists? Painfully, make that excruciatingly, Isabel learns the answer to this question.
"Whenever I heard the words liberty or freedom, I wanted to spit in the
As with all of Anderson's characters, Isabel is strong and must rely on herself alone to fight her way out of the nightmare her life has become. After a severe beating, and a terrifying threat from Mrs. Lockton, Isabel has an ephiphany:
"A thought surfaced through my ashes. She cannot chain my soul. Yes, she could
hurt me. She'd already done so...I would bleed, or not. Scar, or not. Live, or
not. But she could no longer harm Ruth. and she could not hurt my soul, not
unless I gave it to her." (p. 246-247)
Anderson masterfully includes documented historical quotes throughout the novel that help to make it educational and authentic. I also thought Anderson did a wonderful job of showing the cruelty and ugly rawness of war and slave treatment during the American Revolution. Neither side is painted as perfect or pretty, and Isabel (along with readers) learns that the hard way. Anderson's talent for making historical events relatable to today's young adults is a gift to teachers everywhere...