Jenny Estes shares her father’s dream of freedom. But for Jenny — born into slavery in Missouri in the 1840s — freedom seems an impossible dream. She toils alongside her mother in the steaming kitchen of the Leopold plantation, trying her best to be humble and obedient so that Mrs. Leopold won’t sell her to a slave-trader. But when she's not drying dishes or mixing biscuits, Jenny finds time to practice her reading, a skill that ultimately helps the family plan their migration and realize their dream. The Estes face a formidable journey: a grueling passage from Missouri to Saltspring Island, Canada. Along the way, Jenny’s family confronts scarlet fever, racial persecution, the arduous Oregon Trail, warring native Haidas, and finally, the challenges of homesteading. Jenny’s spirit and fortitude in the face of many adversities make her a heroine all young readers can look up to. Based on a true story, this tale is a gripping account of one young girl's coming-of-age in troubling and unsettling times.
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Gr. 5-8. After Jenny and her family earn their freedom, the idealistic former slaves journey from Missouri to California. Their initially warm reception quickly cools, so they participate in a mass emigration of free blacks to a wild British Columbia island, where Jenny--only 14--helps her tragically diminished family forge a homestead. Canadian author Burtinshaw based Jenny's story on a real settler of Salt Spring Island, and her telling dramatizes the heartache and backbreaking work that sometimes made the newly free feel "more a slave [than] ever." At times the narrative feels cursory, breezing through months and years of Jenny's life in a way that some may find disorienting. But the desire to see Jenny find a measure of contentment will hold readers until the bittersweet ending, which is no less poignant for the purposeful elements (such as pedantic chapter-openers and labored interweaving of historical context) that occasionally intrude upon the personal story. For other novels that spotlight the intersection of black history and pioneer survival, look to Mildred Taylor's The Land (2001) and Diane Lee Wilson's Black Storm Comin' (2005). Jennifer Mattson
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Grade 6-9 As this novel opens, Howard Estes, a slave in Clay County, MO, looks upon his new baby daughter. Noting her light skin, he immediately fears that his wife was molested by her white master. But Jenny is indeed his daughter, born into a world of work and worry. Fortunately, she is also born into a family full of love and hope. Howard eventually buys their freedom and they follow the Oregon Trail to California. Jenny is only 10 when her mother dies in childbirth, and she takes on the work of running her family. When California tightens its laws regarding free blacks, the family uproots yet again to make their home on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, as British subjects. Burtinshaw based this novel on the life of Sylvia Stark, who lived to be 106 years old. She often explains too much when the story could stand on its own. Even so, the novel successfully reflects the complexity of the times, and it certainly adds another perspective for readers who love pioneer stories. Pat Leach, Lincoln City Libraries, NE
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Book Description Raincoast Books, 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P111551928396
Book Description Raincoast Books, 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M1551928396