BREAKING FREE by LouAnn Gaeddert

BREAKING FREE

Age Range: 10 - 14
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Richard has been raised by his aunt and her husband, a gentle Vermont storekeeper who values his musical and academic gifts. But when Aunt Ruth dies, Uncle Ambrose doesn't try to contest her brother Lyman's right to the 12-year-old, whom he claims as blood kin but covets as a laborer for his farm across the New York border. Lyman and his sons farm with the help of two slaves, ``Boy'' and his little daughter ``Gee Gee.'' Richard has known free blacks; slavery is illegal in Vermont in 1800--and not much countenanced in New York. But Lyman is a hard man, without imagination; he has sold Boy's wife Dina, uses him as a draft animal, and treats Richard with a similar lack of compassion. Still, despite Lyman's rigid proscriptions, the grueling labor, and a cousin who's ``a sneak with a nasty streak,'' the other cousin is kind, Richard's reading aloud is enjoyed by the household (including Gee Gee, whom he secretly teaches to read), and he's eventually given permission to attend school. In a taut conclusion, a sympathetic schoolmaster serves as deus ex machina: He locates Dina, now free in Canada, engineers the means for her family to join her, drives the escape wagon, and finds a place where Richard can earn his keep and continue his education. Possible, if neat; but also a satisfying outcome to a fast- moving, vividly authentic depiction of rural life and injustice in the country's early days. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-689-31883-9
Page count: 136pp
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1994