Samuel, a freeborn black orphan, is sold into slavery during the height of the Civil War.
Thirteen-year-old Samuel is bookish and well-behaved—the exact opposite of his 6-year-old brother, Joshua. They live in an orphanage for “colored” boys run by a priest. When Samuel takes the blame for something he didn’t do in order to protect Joshua, he’s removed from the orphanage. Faithful and naïve, Samuel at first believes he’s been taken away by God. But when he’s given a new name (“Friday”) and sold into slavery on a cotton plantation in Mississippi, he realizes that he is instead in “Hell.” In his debut for teens, Walter chronicles Samuel’s journey through the horrors of slavery and his quest for freedom against the backdrop of the Civil War. Through Samuel’s plight and in his voice, Walter portrays slavery in America as the cruel institution that it was while also exploring moral and religious issues, such as the way the Bible was used by clergy and plantation owners as justification for enslavement. While readers on the young end of the age range and those unfamiliar with religious concepts may find the opening chapters somewhat confusing, Samuel’s endearing, immersive narration makes the novel a fascinating and unforgettable account of a brutal and shameful chapter in America’s history.
A heartbreaking story about family, justice, and the resilience of the human spirit. (Historical fiction. 12-16)