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It is 1851. Miles is a house slave on the Tilery Plantation, but when he is caught looking at an open book, he is sent to the breaking ground where he learns what it really means to be a slave.
12-year-old Miles is allowed to work in the great house on the Tillery Plantation, where he is training to be a house servant, rather than labor in the fields. But after he is caught looking at an open book while dusting the library, Miles is banished from the mansion and sent to the breaking ground. There, he learns what it truly means to feel like a slave. But it is also at the breaking ground that he meets Elijah, an older slave who teaches Miles to read and tells him of the land of freedom up north. Armed with his new knowledge, Miles tells himself that he does not feel like a slave and he no longer believes working in the great house is a privlege.
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Alice McGill is an award-winning author and professional storyteller. Among her books is the ALA Notable Molly Bannaky, winner of the 2000 IRA Picture Book Award and the 2000 Jane Addams Award. Alice McGill has toured to collect and tell stories in thirty-nine states, Canada, the West Indies, and South Africa. She lives with her husband in Columbia, Maryland.From School Library Journal:
Grade 6-8-Miles is a 12-year-old slave training to work as a house servant to a South Carolina plantation owner and his family. When he is caught looking at the inside of a book, he is sent off to the "breaking ground" to have his spirit broken. Unfortunately for the master, Miles's experience there does just the opposite. A slave named Elijah recognizes the boy's intelligence and teaches him to read and write. Miles begins to think about how he might gain his freedom. When he returns to the plantation, he manages to become a field hand and waits for Elijah to contact him with instructions on how to escape. The resolution of Miles's story is in question until almost the very end, making this a book that will keep readers turning pages. The depictions of the terrible living conditions, poor diet, brutal punishments, and general dehumanizing effects of slavery are vividly rendered. The field hands speak in dialect, but it is not presented in a condescending manner. House slaves are taught to speak standard English and live in far better conditions, setting up a social hierarchy that plays the different classes against one another. While many of the historical details can be verified easily, the lack of an author's note is troubling in that students may not have ready access to information on the breaking ground or on the slave breeding farm alluded to in the story. This omission, however, does not seriously detract from an otherwise enlightening and absorbing story about a truly memorable character.
Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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