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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Incredibly rich historical details about perils of daily life in slavery, social issues facing early republic, politics of abolitionism. Explains complicated historical events, laws like Fugitive Slave Law, Three-Fifths Compromise in U.S. Constitution (whereby only three of every five enslaved people were counted as a person in determining state's population, representation in House of Representatives), precarious situation of free Black Americans in early republic. Filled with direct quotations from primary sources. Some historical information is presented simplistically or stated misleadingly, but for mostly text is amazing resource for students, teachers.
The most "fundamental pursuit" is the pursuit of freedom, no matter the risks.
Positive Role Models
Ona is revealed to have been courageous, heroic, determined, unapologetic in her struggle for liberty. On the other hand, George and Martha Washington and their circle of friends who were also enslavers are exposed as racist, hypocritical, self-interested socialites committed to preserving violent, oppressive system.
Violence & Scariness
While no acts of violence are actually described in the text, there are frank discussions about how vulnerable enslaved individuals were to kidnapping, brutal punishment, sexual assault, including explicit references to rape.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Never Caught, The Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington's Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away is a fact-filled, tween-friendly biography of a fascinating historical figure. This Young Readers Edition of historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar's Never Caught for adults is an excellent resource for teaching and learning about slavery in the early United States and the lives of enslaved women. The book is compelling in terms of storytelling and rich in detailed information about the period. No acts of violence are described, but there are frank discussions about how vulnerable enslaved individuals were to kidnapping, brutal punishment, and sexual assault, with explicit references to rape.
Is It Any Good?
This riveting biography brings Ona to life as a conflicted young woman trying to survive through incredibly difficult circumstances. Her proximity to the Washingtons allows the authors an opportunity to explain complicated historical events and laws like the Fugitive Slave Law, the Three-Fifths Compromise in the U.S. Constitution, and the precarious situation of free Black Americans in the early republic. The writing in this adaptation for young readers is mostly clear and compelling, though there are a few surprising instances in which the attempt to explain a complex historical phenomenon winds up oversimplifying, distorting, or slightly misrepresenting the facts. For instance, one misstatement claims that after the Revolutionary War, Black loyalists were "completely abandoned" by the British, when in fact thousands were evacuated, many were given land grants in places like Nova Scotia and the Caribbean, and more than 1,000 wound up relocating to the newly established colony of Sierra Leone. While it's true that many Black Loyalists were not fortunate enough to flee with the British armies, and those who were left behind did indeed face repression, small errors such as this do a slight disservice to an otherwise incredibly educational and rigorously reconstructed work of history.
Still, Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge is a fantastic window into the successes and struggles of free and enslaved people of color in this period. It also deals frankly with some of the ugliest truths about America's founding and the deeply flawed men credited with its creation.
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.