Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Historical Fiction
The Other Side of Free

The Other Side of Free

Fall 2013 Historical Fiction
Ages: 10 - 14 yrs.
Author: Krista Russell
ISBN: 9781561457106
Hardcover Price: $16.95

Jem was anxious to escape his abusive master's house in Charles Town, but that doesn't mean his life in freedom is all rainbows and joy. Why did Aunt Winnie have to send him to the Spanish settlement in Florida with that horrible, bitter woman Phaedra instead of coming with him herself? Why didn't she want Jem anymore? And why won't Phaedra let Jem join the militia to defend the Spanish against the English? The Spanish have guaranteed freedom to escaped English slaves, so long as they agree to fight with the Spanish against their former masters—so why doesn't Phaedra trust them? Jem has all kinds of questions, and nobody wants to answer them. When word begins to trickle south of a big slave rebellion at the Stono River, however, everyone—the freedmen's settlement, the Spanish, and the nearby Indian village—begin to prepare for war against the English. Jem wants to help, but every time he tries, he seems to cause more trouble.

This new novel places a coming-of-age story in the context of the 1739 Stono Rebellion in South Carolina, and the ensuing battles between Spanish and English colonists. Jem is an appealing narrator, naïve and eager to learn, who effectively guides the reader through events of American history that are not often discussed in school. His struggles to develop his own competence and independence are compelling and convincing, and his complicated relationships with secondary characters like Phaedra and settlement leader Big Sunday are rendered with grace and complexity. The depiction of Domingo, Jem's one contact in the Indian village, is a bit flat and romanticized; overall, however, this is a rich and readable historical novel about a compelling aspect of American history.

Naomi Lesley   ©2013 Parents' Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

Look for this product at:
Peachtree Publishers

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