Hattie’s parents decide to join the movement of free blacks from their home state of Tennessee west to Kansas for the opportunities in bourgeoning black communities, but the journey is harder than they anticipated.
Since Emancipation, Hattie’s parents have sought every opportunity, from pursuing education to opening a successful blacksmith shop. They work hard but want for nothing: Their community supports Papa’s business, Hattie’s teacher believes in her, and while the white woman for whom Hattie does chores is unpleasant company, she pays Hattie a helpful wage. But a man named Singleton comes to town announcing opportunities in Kansas—including free land and all-black towns. When the harassment from Papa’s former master becomes violent, Hattie’s parents decide to make the long journey. The perils along the way are no Little House adventure, and when they arrive, they are disappointed with the basic living conditions compared to where they came from. Yet the story is more suspenseful than scary, and Hattie’s happy, loving, free black family shows a side of American history not often pictured. Historical details are seamlessly woven into the plot through Hattie’s eyes, and half-page pencil illustrations bring her family to life.
With cliffhangers and characters to care about, and enough homesteading to interest fans of books about “pioneers,” this well-written volume fills a major gap in historical fiction. (author’s note, photos, map) (Historical fiction. 8-12)