In acclaimed author Patricia McKissack's latest addition to the Dear America line, Lozette, a French slave, whose masters uproot her and bring her to America, must find her place in the New World.
Arriving with her French masters in upstate New York at the tail end of the French-Indian War, Lozette, "Zettie," an orphaned slave girl, is confronted with new landscapes, new conditions, and new conflicts. As her masters are torn between their own nationality and their somewhat reluctant new allegiance to the British colonial government, Zettie, too, must reconsider her own loyalties.
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Grade 4-6-Zettie, 12, is a companion to the daughter of a once-wealthy Frenchman. An African slave, she was purchased as a gift for Marie-Louise and although well treated, she longs to be free. After Marie-Louise's father dies, her older brother threatens to sell the slaves and marry off his sister to an older, unattractive, but wealthy man to keep himself out of debtor's prison. Marie-Louise convinces her fiance to purchase Zettie as her wedding gift, and the two girls, with the help of a friend, flee to Spain, and then to America. They sail to a British-controlled fort in the area that would later become New York State. The rest of the book describes life at the fort, the effects of the French and Indian War on the relations with the Native Americans, and Marie-Louise's search for her younger brother, who had been captured by the Delaware Indians. The diary is a straightforward account with very little emotion. Zettie simply records the events of the day with few comments as to her thoughts and feelings, and her character is never fully developed. The other figures are even more shadowy. The quality of the black-and-white period maps, portraits, landscapes, etc., is poor. It is unfortunate that a book written about this time period, on which there is little fiction available for this age, is not up to the author's usual standard.
Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC
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Gr. 5-9. Her mother died giving birth to her on a slave ship to France, and Lozette ("Zettie") grew up in France as companion and slave to upper-class Mary-Louise. Now at 12 she finds herself with her French mistress in New York Colony at the end of the French and Indian War in 1763. Like other books in the Dear America series, this story is told as a fictionalized diary, and as usual, the blend of fact and fiction, which includes a contrived "epilogue," is confusing, especially as most middle-graders won't know much about this early colonial history. But McKissack does provide an immediate view of the period (including the horrifying decision to give the Indians blankets infected with smallpox), and the personal story brings a fresh perspective to issues of race and class. Compared with some of the poor white servants, Zettie is privileged. She can't do any household chores, but she can read, and she helps the soldiers write home. Her struggle to give up comfort and protection and find true independence is the most moving part of a story seldom told. Hazel Rochman
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Book Description Scholastic Inc., 2004. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # mon0000174859
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