FREEDOM ROADS

SEARCHING FOR THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

Silent stone faces on a tunnel wall in Syracuse. Ruins of the first settlement of freed men and women discovered under a saltwater marsh in Florida. Family stories leading archaeologists to an upstairs room in a Brooklyn house, where slaves were hidden. These and other archaeological sites are examined in this study of the Underground Railroad. In addition, WPA slave narratives, spirituals, quilts, a ship’s logs, diaries, eyewitness accounts, and letters all demonstrate the ways historians learn about the past—from old-fashioned studies of 17th-century church records to the space-age technology of thermal imaging. An important point made here is that the Underground Railroad was not, as often portrayed, an organized network of routes delivering escaping slaves directly to freedom in the North. There were many “freedom roads” and many people with the courage to break the law and put their lives at risk in the name of liberty and democracy. The authors portray historians as detectives, solving mysteries when history keeps a secret, and point out that this is a “living” history, “waiting for a new generation of historians, archaeologists, and researchers to continue to tell this fascinating story.” Discussions of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Dred Scott decision, John Brown, and the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law provide additional historical context. Well-written, well-documented, imaginatively arranged, this is a fascinating offering. Handsomely organized with ten black-and-white illustrations, maps, sidebars, photographs, and other archival material, this covers much ground while saying a great deal about the historian’s craft. An important addition to library collections and classroom units. (foreword, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8126-2673-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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WAR AND THE PITY OF WAR

This startling and honest presentation of the horrors of war from Philip and McCurdy (American Fairy Tales, 1996, etc.) uses poems to thoughtfully balance the often romanticized vision of battle as an expression of bravery and honor. Terror, agony, mass slaughter, absurdity, pointlessness, and cruelty are the subjects of poets writing from ancient times to the present; there are also elegies for warriors, celebrating their brave deaths. Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman, and Stephen Crane share pages with Anakreon and Simonides; there are contributors from Beirut and Bosnia, as well as from the death trains of WWII. Among McCurdy’s somber and realistic black-and-white illustrations are dead soldiers hanging on barbed wire, and a lone soldier standing in a graveyard, holding his head as he says goodbye to those who have died on the fields. The book makes vivid humankind’s innate darkness and makes war painful again. (indexes) (Poetry. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 1998

ISBN: 0-395-84982-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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ALONE IN THE WORLD

ORPHANS AND ORPHANAGES IN AMERICA

A solid, but not stellar, volume surveys the development of orphanages in the United States from the beginning of the 19th century to their decline in the 20th. Reef capably examines the social conditions that led to the establishment of the various institutions serving the children of poverty, from orphan asylums and reformatories, to the orphan trains and settlement houses, and finally to the New Deal and A.F.D.C. The highly readable text gives readers a powerful glimpse into the living conditions of these orphans, from accommodations and clothing to playtime and school, carefully explaining the various underpinning philosophies that led to those conditions. The narrative makes effective use of primary source material ranging from individual orphanages’ histories (every asylum had an historian, it seems) to Davy Crockett and Charles Dickens; archival drawings and photographs further develop the stories (though, regrettably, the captions do not include dates or credits). Although most quoted dialogue is attributed in chapter notes, and an exhaustive bibliography is appended, glaringly absent is any hint of further reading for children whose interest has been piqued. A crying shame. (afterword, picture credits) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 18, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-35670-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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