cover image Freedom Ship

Freedom Ship

Doreen Rappaport. Jump at the Sun, $17.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0645-4

The pair behind The School Is Not White! here collaborates on a picture book that focuses attention on the African-American struggle during the Civil War. Rappaport bases her tale on the slave ship pilot Robert Smalls and the all-slave crew of the Confederate munitions ship Planter, which carried them to freedom. She inserts into these actual events a fictional family whose young son, Samuel, narrates the tense journey. The ship narrowly makes it out of Charleston Harbor, past several Confederate forts, to Union warships offshore. Samuel's suspenseful account will keep readers on the edge of their seats. For example, when he describes walking in the middle of the night to meet the ship: ""Footsteps. Coming fast behind us. Someone is trying to catch up to us. Please don't let it be the police. I'm sure Mama doesn't have a pass for us to be out."" Full-bleed images cross the gutter, filling 2/3 of each spread, backed with vivid blue or midnight black sky. Close-ups capture both the determination and fear on the passengers' faces. Despite a beginning that may confuse young audiences (the narrative jumps in with little or no character introduction) and an ending that arrives rather abruptly, this inspiring, spare read sheds light on how a few brave families helped turn the tide of their fates and the war. Author notes detail what happens to a very successful Smalls after his daring escape. Ages 5-9.