A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Chains is the first book in Laurie Halse Anderson's The Seeds of America Trilogy, followed by Forge and Ashes. Chains is a realistic depiction of life as a young slave in a war-torn city, and it pulls no punches about the price of freedom in Revolutionary times. The main character must survive tremendous cruelties, including being badly beaten. Parents concerned about the book's violence should know that it's not gratuitous but used to accurately show the main character's plight and daily life. Although Isabel is a victim of torments that pass understanding, she remains unbowed.
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What's the story?
Isabel and her younger sister, Ruth, were promised that they would be freed at their mistress' death. Instead, her nephew nephew sells them to a wealthy Loyalist and his sadistic wife. At the Locktons' home in New York, the girls are made to work nonstop while the British and Americans fight over the city. When a young slave on the American side asks Isabel to become a spy, she agrees on his assurance that they'll help free her. But the Americans are ultimately no more interested her freedom than the British.
Is it any good?
This grim, brutally realistic depiction will move and educate readers. Isabel is a strong, relatable character, and through her story, kids will get a sense of the incredible physical and emotional hardships of slavery ("I have no map for this life," Isabel says) -- as well as a strong understanding of the the Revolutionary War.
This National Book Award finalist will leave a deep impression on its readers, who will likely want to follow Isabel's story into its second installment, Forge.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the book's violence. These depictions may be painful to read, but do they add realism and power to Isabel's story? How is reading about violence different than seeing it in a movie or video game?
This book is going to have a sequel. What do you think will happen to Isabel next? Why do you think the next book is called Forge?
For kids who love historical fiction
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