Under the cover of night, twelve-year-old Homer flees Southerland Plantation with his little sister Ada, unwillingly leaving their beloved mother behind. Much as he adores her and fears for her life, Homer knows there’s no turning back, not with the overseer on their trail. Through tangled vines, secret doorways, and over a sky bridge, the two find a secret community called Freewater, deep in the swamp.
In this society created by formerly enslaved people and some freeborn children, Homer finds new friends, almost forgetting where he came from. But when he learns of a threat that could destroy Freewater, he crafts a plan to find his mother and help his new home.
Deeply inspiring and loosely based on the history of maroon communities in the South, this is a striking tale of survival, adventure, friendship, and courage.
Sometimes I read a book and I feel sad when I finish because I wanted to stay with the characters longer. That's how I felt when I finished reading Freewater. This is stellar middle-grade historical fiction. Homer and his sister managed to escape the plantation, but their mother and friend were left behind. They stumbled upon a community of formerly enslaved people living in the swamp. I've read many stories about people escaping enslavement and venturing north - this is the first book I've read about communities of formerly enslaved people living in the south. The story is set in the Great Dismal Swamp and the author did a lot of research on maroon communities in the south - I found it completely riveting.
The characters in this story are so vivid and real. I loved Sanzi especially - she was born in Freewater and finds being confined to the community stifling. She wants to go out and explore and be a hero and doesn't fully understand why her mother won't let her. I also really loved Nora, who is the daughter of the plantation owner. She has selective mutism and feels like her family doesn't understand her. She was deeply attached to Homer's mother, Rosa, who basically raised her. All of the perspective characters had a very distinct voice and I enjoyed reading from all of them.
It's rare to read a book about slavery that is uplifting and heartwarming. This story gives a great balance to reading about the horrors of slavery. This is why I'm such a fan of resistance stories - it is exciting to discover that there were people in this dark time that managed to find a way to be free. I think the author did a fantastic job of showing the brutality of slavery without getting overly graphic. I highly recommend this book to kids ages 10+.
Other Similar Books
Other suggestions on the subject of Escaped Slaves.
- Freewater (by: Luqman-Dawson, Amina, Antebellum South, Slavery, Maroon Community, Escaped Slaves, MG)
- Eliza's Freedom Road: An Underground Railroad Diary (by: Nolen, Jerdine, Underground Railroad, Escaped Slaves, MG)
- The Underground Abductor (by: Hale, Nathan, Harriet Tubman, Underground Railroad, Escaped Slaves, MG, UMG)
- History Smashers: The Underground Railroad (by: Messner, Kate, Underground Railroad, Escaped Slaves, MG, UMG)