A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Offers a detailed portrayal of a range of experiences and origins of enslaved people, exposing readers to much of the historical context in the process. The integration of actual primary source documents encourages further investigation and helps kids visualize the historian's reconstructive work.
Every human being has hopes, dreams, and history and deserves to be remembered as more than a commodity.
Positive Role Models
The men and women of the Fairchild plantation find dignity in their work, have pride in their special skills, and endure despite being in a seemingly hopeless situation.
Violence & Scariness
Some of the horrors of slavery and the Middle Passage are referred to, though no graphic details are included.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan won a 2017 Newbery Honor and both Coretta Scott King Book Award Author and Illustrator Honors. It's a work of historical fiction, written in free verse, that imagines the lives and work of 11 enslaved people who, like millions of other captive people in America, were listed as property in their owner's will. By restoring their humanity and speculating on their individual origins, multi-Coretta Scott King Book Award-winning author-illustrator Ashley Bryan gives voice to some of the voiceless whose stories have been lost to history, creating a rich and varied depiction of plantation society. It's perfect for teaching kids about this difficult and complicated topic.
Is It Any Good?
Ashley Bryan's storytelling seamlessly integrates a bounty of historical information into an easily digestible picture book, making it an ideal introduction to a complex subject. The evocative illustrations in Freedom Over Me are superimposed on collages of documents of transactions for purchase of enslaved people, bringing the primary-source documents historians use to construct narratives of enslaved people into view. The nuance, emotion, and soul in each portrayal gives young readers a chance to engage openly and honestly with one of the darkest and most difficult-to-approach chapters in American history.
Free-verse, first-person narratives effectively give personalities, hopes, and dreams to the individuals who were only names with a monetary value noted in an actual 1828 will. For example, an enslaved man named Stephen says, "My owners see me/ as their property,/ following their orders, doing their bidding./ But through my carpentry/ I feel the accomplishment/ and pride/ of a free man." Althea, the plantation laundress whose value is listed in the will as $175, says, "As slaves,/ we do what our owners demand of us./ As human beings,/ our real lives/ are our precious secret."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.