Monday, January 9, 2017


It happens pretty much every year that I am a CYBILS judge. There's one book that I love, love, love, that doesn't make the final cut. It was true again this year. One of my favorite books, Ashleyy Bryan's FREEDOM OVER ME, was talked about a lot, but didn't make the final cut.

In the author’s notes, Bryan says, “Many years ago, I acquired a collection of slave-related documents. They date from the 1820’s to the 1860’s…(I used) Fairchilds Appraisement of the Estate document from July 5, 1828 to tell this story."

The book begins with a poem by Mrs. Mary Fairchilds, the mistress of the estate. 

 I mourn the passing of
My husband, Cado Fairchilds.
He managed our estate alone.
Eleven negro slaves,
they carried out the work
that made our estate prosper…

I’m having the estate appraised
After the sale
I will return home
To England,
where I may live without fear,
surrounded by my own
good British people.

The remainder of the poems in the book tell the stories of the eleven slaves, with two poems for each. The first poem is about the slave's "outer" life- where they came from, the work they do on the plantation, who they are married to, etc. The second poem tells about the slave's inner life- their hopes and dreams and fears. 

There’s Peggy- age 48, the Fairchild’s cook, selling for $150.  What she cares about, what she loves, is being called the herb doctor. 

There's Stephen, age 32, a carpenter, selling for $300, who loves Jane, the plantation seamstress, also selling for $300. Given his choice, Stephen would design and build homes in all climates of the world. He dreams of a proper marriage to Jane. Stephen and Jane care for John, a 16-year-old slave who dreams of being an artist.

Other slaves include Athelia, age 42, the plantation laundress, $175, Charlotte, age 30, and her child Dora, age 8, selling as a pair for $400. There's Charlotte, a basket maker, who jumped the broom, with Bacus, the blacksmith, and Betty, age 36, a flower Gardner, who will be sold for $150. Qush and Melvina, both around 60, will be sold for $100 each.

Ashley Bryan's illustrations are, as always, absolutely terrific.

This book could be used with younger children, but could easily be used in a high school classroom. I'm planning on buying a copy for our eighth grade American History classes.

I was really disappointed that this one didn't make the cut. I loved it!

1 comment:

Linda B said...

I loved this book, too, Carol! You wrote about it well!