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

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Picture Books
Freedom Over Me

Freedom Over Me

Fall 2016 Picture Books
Ages: 6 - 10 yrs.
Author: Ashley Bryan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781481456906
Hardcover Price: $17.99

Eleven slaves are being sold at auction from the Fairchild's Estate in 1828.

In an exquisite palette of muted colors on double-page spreads, the left page show's each slave's face illustrated upon a collage of authentic hand written sales documents, captioned only with the price, the name and age of each person. The free verse description of her/his life appears on the opposing page. Turn the page, and bright colors illustrate each person's dreams in artful text and image. Author/illustrator Ashley Bryan clearly and elegantly contrasts the monetary value assigned to individuals with the priceless nature of their insights and dreams.

The sales page portraits depict the slaves unsmiling and facing the reader. Their thoughts, let alone their dreams, remain hidden behind their eyes. Their careworn appearance is achieved through many black swirling lines depicting somber expressions. These masterful haunting and impersonal portraits are full of strength and quiet nobility. But Mr. Bryan transforms the detached to the deeply personal with the turn of the page. Here, readers are privileged to meet the person, learn his/her African name, and understand each person's value as a human being. The full-page, full-color illustrations depicting the dreams of the people are stylized, bright, beautiful, and inimitably Ashley Bryan.

There are ten slaves listed in the actual sales document to whom Bryan has given both life and recognition. The eleventh slave is the boy, John, who was given as a present to Mrs. Fairchild. Bryan himself enters into his own book as this boy who draws everything on used paper and shows it to his loving, supportive slave community. A masterpiece.

Kemie Nix   ©2016 Parents' Choice
Kemie Nix is Chairman of Children's Literature for Children (CLC), a non-profit, tax-exempt, educational organization dedicated to bringing children and books together. Mrs. Nix, a senior book editor for Parents' Choice, has a remarkable sense of selecting books children love to read.

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