cover image Dream Freedom

Dream Freedom

Sonia Levitin. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-15-202404-8

In 17 self-contained chapters, Levitin (The Cure; Escape from Egypt) vividly depicts the harsh reality of modern-day slavery in Africa. The book begins on familiar territory, an American classroom, where grade-schooler Marcus learns of the atrocities occurring in Sudan. Then alternating chapters include vignettes set in the Sudan itself, with first-person accounts from villagers like the once-beautiful Dabora who has been stolen from her family to serve as a slave. Inspired by their teacher, Marcus and his classmates raise money to buy liberty for Dinka slaves (""The price is equal to about two goats--in our money, fifty dollars,"" says his teacher). The stories set in the Sudan convey a range of experiences and images of terror, yearning despair and hope: Alier, a northern Sudanese, is sent to study in Arab schools to learn their ways, but must return home to his father, a chief, after their small village is ravaged by soldiers; ""lucky"" Aziz, the son of a wealthy Arab businessman, experiences an initiation to manhood (seeing his father buy and beat his slaves) that leaves an indelible mark; and Majok and his nameless contact take enormous risks to aid refugees. Though the story's moral at times overpowers the volume and the construction may be hard for some to follow, the author's inspirational telling leaves readers with a strong political message tied to Mother Teresa's gentle appeal (and the classroom's mantra): to ""do small things with great love."" Ages 10-up. (Oct.)