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Bright Cameron has always been taught that freedom is a person's most precious right. After all, Papa came to America as a poor indentured worker from Scotland and he toiled for years until his friend Marcus, a slave, helped him to freedom. But for Bright, slavery has always been something she has only heard about. Then she discovers that Mama and Papa are hiding runaway slaves in a hidden compartment of Papa's wagon and boarding them in the barn. Soon Bright, too, becomes involved in her family's secret world. One night, when Papa falls ill, Bright discovers how dear freedom truly is--and what price it exacts from those who must struggle for it.
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Houston's (Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree) preface and afterword emphasize several facts and convictions that inform her at times ponderous novel: chiefly, she sees a connection between the experience of indentured servants in this country and their willingness, once freed, to help slaves escape. Bright, the heroine of her novel, is the daughter of one such former servant, Charles Cameron. Charles fled a cruel master (long before the story opens in 1853) with the help of a fellow worker, Marcus, an African sold into slavery. Marcus has safely crossed into Canada, but he returns periodically to the Camerons' North Carolina farm, a safe house on the Underground Railroad, to act as a guide to escaping slaves. Despite significant doses of stiff dialogue designed to impart historical details and weigh moral issues, Houston shapes an affecting family portrait. At its heart is Bright's growing awareness of her parents' dangerous work. There are some sad, and sadly realistic, moments here: Bright finds a half-dead slave?younger than she?who was attacked by his master's dogs, and later she learns that he and his master's daughter, who had run away with him, have been caught and killed. But she also works in some unlikely coincidences, including an incident straight out of The Sound of Music (Toby, a former apprentice of Cameron's with whom Bright has had a flirtation, is one of the Confederate soldiers who stops Bright and Marcus as they drive escaped slaves to freedom; Toby vouches for them). Despite its weak spots, this novel effectively illuminates relatively obscure but intriguing angles of American history. Ages 10-up. (Publishers Weekly )
Grade 5-8-At the age of six, Bright Cameron sees what she believes is a "devil" in the hen house. This devil turns out to be Marcus, an escaped slave who is her father's friend. As the girl grows up, she is introduced to her parents' secret work: helping the runaway slaves who arrive at their North Carolina smithy travel through the Appalachian Mountains. Bright's father, who was kidnapped and brought to America as an indentured servant, feels strongly about helping others to freedom. As the Civil War approaches, the "bundles" appear with more regularity. When she is 15, Bright's father falls ill, and she and Marcus take off to make a delivery to a nearby farm. This event opens the novel and captures readers' attention. The story then backtracks to Bright's first encounter with Marcus and follows her emotional growth and understanding of the complex issues of slavery and her courageous conviction to help. Focusing on the daily routine of a family involved in the Underground Railroad, this book offers a glimpse into the danger of their situation. Though Bright's mother and Marcus are flat characters that serve to drive the plot, Bright is well drawn as a dedicated daughter and tough young woman and her father as a man who is driven to help others. Readable and well-researched historical fiction. Angela J. Reynolds, West Slope Community Library, Portland, OR (School Library Journal )
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Book Description Scholastic, 1999. Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110439138493
Book Description Scholastic, 1999. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0439138493