Growing up as a slave before the Civil War is an unbearable life. At least Ann is lucky enough to still live with both her parents and her siblings. But when they discover that their master is going to sell Ann and her little brother, they decide to flee into the Underground Railroad to keep their family together.
Ann Fights for Freedom: An Underground Railroad Survival Story is an exciting, heart wrenching story that delves into an important part of American History. It is a must read for all young readers.
Ann Fights for Freedom: An Underground Railroad Survival Story
Author: Nikki Shannon Smith
Illustrator: Alessia Trunfio
Age Range: 8 – 12
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Paperback: 112 pages
Formats: Paperback, eBook
The story begins on a plantation in the south in 1854. Ann is twelve-years-old and a slave, along with her family. She spends her entire day from sunrise to sundown six days a week working in the fields farming. They sleep in a small, dirt floor shack on the edge of the farm under the constant eye of the overseers. It is harsh life, but at least she is together with her entire family. At night when they aren’t working, she has a few moments each day to just be a kid.
When her grandmother passes away from illness, it changes her mother. She no longer smiles or hums when she cooks. More of the burden of caring for her five-year-old brother and baby sister falls onto Ann. It is hard sometimes, but Ann does her best to be strong for her family.
Then one night, there is a knock outside their shack. One of their fellow slaves stops by to pass along the bad news. Their master has fallen into hard times financially. So, he has decided to sell two of his slaves to make up for the loss. The word spreading across the farm is that he will be selling Ann and her five-year-old brother the next Monday.
Instantly Ann explodes with anger inside. She might be only twelve-years-old, but she knows very well that if they are sold, she will never she her parents again. Full with worry, she tries to convince her dad to escape into the Underground Railroad. But he will have none it. It is too dangerous. They don’t have a conductor or know the way. Ann only has a few more days with her family and there is nothing she can do about it.
On Saturday night, the slaves gather around a bonfire to dance and socialize before their day of rest on Sunday. Ann sites quietly, soaking in every detail hoping to never forget everyone’s faces. To her surprise, they linger back as everyone else leaves. Then her parents tell her that they are escaping right then. Her parents know that it will be until Monday morning before their master realizes that they are gone. It is their best chance to escape.
Running into the swamp in the middle of the night, they rush away as fast as they can. Ann soon discovers how scary the swamp is at night. She is terrified of every little noise, fearing ghosts that lure people into the swarm to kill them. Or worse yet, bounty hunters hot on their trail. Luckily, along the way they meet some good people.
First, they bump into a black man who is free. He worked hard and purchased his freedom, and then his wife’s. They live in a small cabin with a wood floor and a kitchen table. Ann’s mind fills with the excitement of eating dinner at a table when they are free. The nice man directs them on their way. Soon, they bump into another group of escaped slaves who know of a safehouse close by.
Ann and her family joins the group and hurry to the underground railroad station. But they aren’t fast enough and the sun rises just before they reach it. The other slaves and their father race across the field to the house in the daylight. But Ann, her mother, and siblings wait in the field hiding until dark. They sleep during the day and as the sun sets, Ann and her little brother start to make their way toward the house. That is when a wagon of bounty hunters pull up and raid the house. They capture the other slaves, along with her father.
Distraught, her mother says that they need to run back to the plantation. They can’t go on without their father. But Ann knows they have no choice. If they go back, not only will they still be sold, but they will likely be beaten for leaving. With her mother in shambles, it is up to Ann. She needs to stand up and lead her family north to freedom.
This is a powerful and thrilling read that will keep you at the edge of your seat. The characters are realistic and engaging, pulling you into their harrowing tale. It is a wonderful, age appropriate glimpse into Underground Railroad and pre-Civil War history.
I highly recommend reading Ann Fights for Freedom: An Underground Railroad Survival Story to all young readers. It is a great book to read with your kid and discuss together.