Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

The Freedom Stone by Jeffrey Kluger -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction

Thirteen-year-old Lillie and her family are unfairly being held in slavery during the Civil War. Lillie's father joined the Confederate Army when the Army promised freedom to those who served and their families. Lillie's father was killed in Vicksburg and when he died, he was found to be in the possession of $500 in Yankee gold coins. Master assumed the money was stolen and refused the free Lillie's family. Now the slave appraiser is taking an interest in Lillie's little brother, Plato and her friend Cal. She's convinced her father wasn't a thief and is determined to find out the truth.

Cal is a proud, headstrong teenage boy chafing under the restrictions of slavery. He's eager to be free and willing to risk his life to gain freedom. 

Miss Sarabeth is the pampered daughter of the Master. She and Lillie used to be close but now Lillie has drifted away and become close to the old baker woman Bett. Miss Sarabeth knows she shouldn't be jealous but she can't help feeling left out. When she thinks she has uncovered a big secret, she has to decide where her loyalty lies. 

Time is running out for Plato and Lillie becomes even more determined to uncover the truth about her Papa's money. To finally discover the truth, she needs some help from Bett. Bett has baked a magic rock from Africa into her baking oven and figured out how to make bread that shifts time. Lillie needs Bett's help before it's too late to save her family

This is an interesting book that blends fact and fantasy. The details about life in slavery are excellent. The author doesn't spare the harsh realities but handles slavery in an age-appropriate manner. The characters are a bit stereotypical, especially the white ones. Even so, I liked Lillie a lot and identified with her stubbornness. I admired Lillie's willingness to do whatever she could to become free and Mama's pride. The only thing I didn't like was the third person narration. I think it should have been first-person from Lillie's point-of-view or alternate between Lillie and Cal. I felt too detached from the story with the third-person narration. I usually don't like fantasy/supernatural/time travel stories but I really liked this one. The magic made the story stand out from all the other stories about slavery. It was believable because the author set parameters about what it could do and how. I liked that the magic is African, a good reminder of the heritage that was taken away from those who were enslaved. This is a great book for anyone ages 10+.

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