cover image Stealing Freedom

Stealing Freedom

Elisa Carbone. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-679-89307-3

Carbone (Starting School with an Enemy) bases this dramatic, often poignant historical novel on the life of Ann Maria Weems, a Maryland slave who, disguised as a boy, escaped to Canada at the age of 13. When the story opens in 1853, the 11-year-old, her mother and siblings are the property of Charles Price; her father is legally free, yet he, too, works ""from first light to last light."" Though Papa assures Ann Maria that Price would never break up a family, ""Master Charles"" sells off the three Weems sons and later insists that Ann Maria remain his slave when Mr. Bigelow, an abolitionist, buys her mother and sister. In one of the tale's most wrenching scenes, the girl watches her parents and sister ride off to their new life and realizes that ""the fabric of her family had been ripped again, and she was the piece that was being torn off."" Ann Maria's harrowing escape, masterminded by Bigelow, gives youngsters an immediate, at times thrilling account of the workings of the Underground Railroad; the view of the Weemses' family life provides some idea of the incredible determination and ingenuity of slaves aspiring to freedom. Imaginatively and sensitively adapted from historical records, this portrait will evoke admiration for the courage of both those who resisted slavery and those who endured it. Ages 10-up. (Dec.)