The author of Serafina's Promise (2013) returns with another lyrical novel in verse.
When Grace turns 9, she is forced to leave the daily work of helping Aunt Sara tend her baby brothers and their garden, the daily joy of seeing Mama and Uncle Jim come home each night from the fields. Unlike the rest of her enslaved family, Grace has light skin and blue eyes. (The fact that her father must have been white, with all that implies, is never made explicit.) Her coloring—possibly light enough to pass—makes her more desirable for a house slave in the Missus' and Master's eyes, so Grace must work in the plantation kitchen and even serve at the table. The cook, Aunt Tempie, seems to bow to all of Missus' demands with a compliance Grace can't emulate—though Grace works hard, she sometimes lets her true feelings slip. Missus finally decides that “bringin Grace's family / to the auction block / might finally teach Grace / who she is and / where she belongs.” Grace reacts with courage and resourcefulness, urging her family to flee to the swamps and ensuring they won’t be caught. Told through Grace's eyes in Southern rhythms that approach dialect with a poet's careful sensibility, the story unfolds with a combination of historical precision, honesty, and adventure. Burg describes her research, based in part on narratives of the formerly enslaved collected by the Federal Writers Project, in the backmatter.
Beautifully done. (Historical fiction. 9-12)