Like his mother and grandmother before him, Joseph Jacobs was born into slavery. Joseph lives with his grandmother and sister in North Carolina, but he has not seen his mother for more than seven years. Unbeknownst to Joseph, his mother, Harriet, has been hiding from her owner in the attic of the house that Joseph lives in. But when Harrietamps hiding place is in danger of being revealed, she is forced to flee north to safety only moments after being reunited with her family.Devastated by losing his mother for the second time, Joseph begins to ponder the nature of the world he lives in. Soon Joseph, seeking freedom and a place where he can be himself, follows his mother north. As he searches for answers, Joseph experiences life in Massachusetts, California, Australia, and aboard a whaling shipbut thereamps no place where Joseph feels that he can truly be free.In this companion novel toLetters from a Slave Girl, Josephamps stirring quest for freedom and identity is told through letters imagined by the author.
Gr 4-8-Joseph, son of Harriet Jacobs from Letters from a Slave Girl (S & S, 1992), writes to various relatives and acquaintances, sharing thoughts and events of his life as a slave from 1839 to 1860. The "letters" are written primarily as a journal. They begin when Joseph is nine years old, and a plantation owner's son is "teeching" him how to "rite." Although his life in his free great-grandmother's house is better than that of most slaves, he is always aware of his status. Escaping North Carolina, Joseph makes his way first to Boston and then to New Bedford, MA, where he boards a whaling ship. Later he travels to the gold fields of California. He is willing to do anything to earn freedom money for his family-even "pass" for white. However, Joseph's lack of financial acuity, his gambling, and, of course, his color make him easy prey, and he fails to save the needed funds. Despite this, he remains optimistic in his final letter as he sets sail for a better life in Australia. The "letters" are short and the pace is quick. The dialect and spelling give authenticity without making the text difficult to read and understand. Notes by the author explain that most events are fictionalized because little information is known about the real Joseph. Historical data supports the fiction. A reproduction of Joseph's protection paper issued in July 1846, photographs, and drawings from the time period are included. This title stands on its own, but children who appreciated the forthright perspective of the first book will want to read this one as well.-Carolyn Janssen, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Atheneum Books for Young Readers
January 06, 2009
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