Two youngsters escaping slavery find refuge.
Twelve-year-old Homer and his little sister, Ada, become separated from their mother as they attempt to flee enslavement on the Southerland plantation. They are rescued by Suleman, who takes them deep into the Great Dismal Swamp, where they join Freewater, a community of people who successfully fled from slavery and children who were born there. They work together to remain free, support one another, and remember the history of their founding. Suleman is one of the men who patrols the swamp, watching for any who would seek to reenslave them. He and others raid neighboring plantations for supplies. Freeborn Sanzi, 12, is determined to be a hero like Suleman—even if it gets her into trouble—and when her efforts go badly wrong, it places their settlement in danger. Meanwhile, back at Southerland, Homer’s mother has been caught and severely whipped. This does not keep Homer’s friend Anna from plotting her own escape while Homer seeks a way to rescue his mother. Set in a fictional community but based on real stories of those who fled slavery and lived secretly in Southern swamps, this is detailed and well-researched historical fiction. The characters are varied, complex, and fully realized. Descriptions of the setting are so vivid that it becomes a key aspect of the narrative. The page-turning action will engage readers as the story reaches a satisfying conclusion.
An exceptional addition to the resistance stories of enslaved people.(author's note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)