May 2007

Reading Recommendations · Fiction about Slavery in Early American History for 4th -10th Grades

Cover of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (Grades 9-12)

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (Grades 9-12)

M. T. Anderson
An African prince reared as a science experiment by a college of radical Enlightenment philosophers during the years leading up to and during the Revolutionary War escapes from the college and joins the Revolutionary Army.

Jump Ship to Freedom (Grades 5-8)

James Collier and Christopher Collier
In 1787, a 14-year-old slave is anxious to buy freedom for himself and his mother, and after escaping from his dishonest master, tries to find help by cashing the soldier’s notes received by his father for fighting in the Revolution.

War Comes to Willy Freeman (Grades 5-8)

James Collier
A free 13-year-old black girl in Connecticut is caught up in the horror of the Revolutionary War and the danger of being returned to slavery when the British kill her patriot father and her mother disappears.

A Stolen Life (Grades 5-8)

Jane Curry
In 1758, 13-year-old Jamesina MacKenzie finds her courage tested after she is abducted from her home in Scotland by “spiriters” and sold as a bond slave to a Virginia planter.
Cover of Copper Sun (Grades 9-12)

Copper Sun (Grades 9-12)

Sharon Draper
When slave traders invade Armari’s village, she is dragged to a slave ship bound for the Carolinas. Bought by a plantation owner, she befriends a white indentured servant and struggles to hold on to her memories in the face of hopeless and despair.

Lorenzo’s Secret Mission (Grades 6-9)

Rick Guzman
15-year-old Lorenzo sets off to join a secret flatboat operation delivering much-needed medicine and gunpowder to George Washington’s army, traveling from the docks of New Orleans to the battlefields of the American Revolution.

I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl (Grades 5-8)

Joyce Hansen
A freed slave learns to read by listening to lessons given to her previous master’s family, and when the plantation teacher can’t come, she discovers her true gift. (Dear America)

Worlds Apart (Grades 4-7)

Kathleen Karr
In 1670, soon after arriving in the Carolinas with a group of colonists from England, 15-year-old Christopher West befriends a young Sewee Indian, Asha-po, and learns some hard lessons about survival, slavery, and friendship.
Cover of Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue (Grades 6-9)

Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue (Grades 6-9)

Julius Lester
Told using a dialogue of voices, an unconventional and award-winning story of young Emma, who discovers that every decision has its consequences and that final judgment is passed down not by man but by his maker.

The Old African (Grades 4-7)

Julius Lester
An elderly slave uses the power of his mind to ease the suffering of his fellow slaves and eventually lead them back to Africa.

Time’s Memory (Grades 9-12)

Julius Lester
Ekundayo, a Dogon spirit brought to America from Africa, inhabits the body of a young African-American slave on a Virginia plantation, where he experiences loss, sorrow, and reconciliation in the months preceding the Civil War.

The Poison Place (Grades 6-8)

Mary Lyons
Freed slave Moses Williams takes his daughter, Maggie, on a nighttime tour of Philadelphia’s famous Peale Museum, providing her with stories rich in family history and firmly rooted in life’s lessons.

Look to the Hills: The Diary of Lozette Moreau, a French Slave Girl (Grades 5-9)

Pat McKissack
Brought up to be a companion for a nobleman’s daughter, 13-year-old Zettie records the events of 1763 when she and her mistress escape to the New World and are inadvertently drawn into the hostilities of the French and Indian War. (Dear America)
Cover of 47 (Grades 7-10)

47 (Grades 7-10)

Walter Mosley
In an unusual blend of historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy, a 14-year-old slave named 47 tells of his fated encounter with 3,000-year-old Tall John from the planet Elle who appears in the guise of a young runaway slave.

Tituba of Salem Village (Grades 5-7)

Ann Petry
Tituba, a slave, is sold in Barbados to a preacher bound for Boston and becomes one of three women convicted at the beginning of the Salem witch trials.

Pirates!: The True and Remarkable Adventures of Minerva Sharpe and Nancy Kington, Female Pirates (Grades 7-10)

Celia Rees
After arriving to be married off at the family’s Jamaican plantation in 1722, 16-year-old Nancy escapes with her slave friend, Minerva, and together they become pirates.

Cast Two Shadows (Grades 6-9)

ann Rinaldi
In South Carolina in 1780, 14-year-old Caroline sees the Revolutionary War take a terrible toll among her family and friends and comes to understand the true nature of war.
Cover of The Color of Fire (Grades 5-9)

The Color of Fire (Grades 5-9)

Ann Rinaldi
In New York City, 1741, mass hysteria ensues when whites begin to accuse black slaves of setting fires to start an uprising.

Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons: The Story of Phillis Wheatley (Grades 7-up)

Ann Rinaldi
As a child, Wheatley was brought to New England to be a salve, but after publishing her first poem as a teenager, she gained renown throughout the colonies.

Taking Liberty: the Story of Oney Judge, George Washington’s Runaway Slave (Grades 7-9)

Ann Rinaldi
As part of the staff of George and Martha Washington, Oney is referred to as a servant, not a slave, but Oney slowly realizes it is still slavery and she is forced to make a choice.

Seaword Born (Grades 4-7)

Lea Wait
Working on the docks in Charleston Harbor in 1805, 13-year-old slave Michael longs to sail the open seas. When his protective mistress dies he must decide whether to risk sailing north to freedom.

My Name is Sally Little Song (Grades 4-7)

Brenda Woods
When their owner plans to sell one of them in 1802, 12-year-old Sally and her family run away from their Georgia plantation to look for freedom and a home in Florida with the Seminole Indians.
Need more suggestions? Contact your local library and our staff will be happy to assist you.