TITLE: UNDER THE FREEDOM TREE
AUTHOR: Susan VanHecke
ILLUSTRATOR: London Ladd
PUBLICATION INFO: Charlesbridge, 2014
INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 6 to 10
GENRE: nonfiction picture book, history
OPENING and SYNOPSIS:
“1861: May moon gleams bright as Colonel’s buttons. Three slip out unseen.”
From the jacket flap:
“One May night in 1861, three slaves escaped the Confederate line and rowed across the harbor to a Union-held fort. Frank Baker, James Townsend, and Shepard Mallory didn’t know what they would find across the water, but they knew it had to be better than what they left behind.
At the fort, General Benjamin Butler considered the men’s plight. The Fugitive Slave Act required him to return the runaways to their master. But what if they were declared “contraband of war”? Then the Union could claim them as enemy property—and protect them.
Frank, James, and Shepard—the Civil War’s first “contrabands”—opened the door for thousands of other runaway slaves who poured into the fort. The contrabands built a community, helped the North win the war, and learned to read under the spreading branches of the tree later known as the Emancipation Oak. This is their story—and the story of the beginning of slavery’s end.”
THEMES/TOPICS: slavery, history, courage
WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Oh, dear, where to start? First, Hampton, Virginia, home of Ft. Monroe and Emancipation Oak, is my hometown. Yet, before this beautiful book, I had never heard this compelling story. Second, VanHecke tells this tale in brilliant blank verse, reminding me of other historical favorites told in similar fashion, like Brian Floca’s MOONSHOT or LOCOMOTIVE. Plus, Ladd’s images have a kind of poetry too.
- UNDER THE FREEDOM TREE has its own Web site complete with Educator’s Guide and Reader’s Theater script.
- You’ll also find videos of Emancipation Oak and Pres. Obama declaring Freedom’s Fortress a national monument.
- If you visit Hampton, you can see Emancipation Oak.
- And my boys love walking Ft. Monroe. The cannons are their favorite part. The National Park Service has a page just for kids with activities related to Ft. Monroe. And don’t miss the Casemate Museum.
You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!
20 thoughts on “PPBF: UNDER THE FREEDOM TREE”
Looks really good and captivating. How neat it’s from your “stomping grounds!”
What a great story and a local one too. i’ll look out for this.
I hope your library has it.
You beat me to this one. This is one cool book. I love the history and how it is presented! And, I love true stories.
This would make such a great history lesson in a classroom coupled with information about the Emancipation Proclamation.
Looking forward to finding this one. The illustrator’s name had me chuckling though!
Oh, Julie….. 🙂
Great review. Historical fiction, my kind of book. Thanks Kirsten.
I’m always intrigued by unique ways of telling nonfiction stories. Blank verse is brilliant.
This sounds great. I love learning about this time-period. 🙂
This book is amazing. I can’t wait to get back to Virginia and take the kids to see Emancipation Oak.
This book looks brilliant and exciting and moving and educational all in one, Kirsten! A great addition to our list! Since we’re not running PPBF this week or next due to the March Madness Writing Contest, please add it to the April 4 list!!!
I know, Susanna, I was so anxious to review it, I totally forgot there was no PPBF. I will repost April 4th.
It’s a Kirsten two-fer this week! I didn’t know you were from VA. And you make me want to read more NF!
Yes, Wendy, I am far from my East Coast roots. But we are able to get back and visit, which is fun for the boys.
This book looks fantastic. Thank you for sharing it!
I reviewed it a couple of weeks ago because I totally forgot about March Madness. I wanted to make sure it didn’t get overlooked.
Great review! Looks like an interesting book – a big topic for a picture book. It’s amazing to me how so much can be said in so few pages.
Glad you put this in the list this week. As I got behind on some blog reading as I “played catchup” during the March Madness. 🙂
I forgot about March Madness and posted it on my blog during the competition. I wanted to make sure it didn’t get overlooked, since it’s fabulous.