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Book Review

This historical novel by Barbara Brooks-Simon is part of the "I Am American" series published by the National Geographic Society.

Escape to Freedom is written for kids ages 8 to 12 years. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Callie Taylor, her grandmother Martha and William Ballard represent the many who were slaves. After offering a brief background on the Underground Railroad, the author begins her fictional tale of 14-year-old Callie in the year 1858. Plantation owners in states including Kentucky struggled financially, forcing them to sell their slaves to plantations in the Deep South. When Callie realizes her master may be planning to sell her at an auction, she realizes it may be her last chance to escape. Martha helps her find others who can guide her as she begins her journey. Around the same time, a slave named William from Elizabethtown, Ky., also realizes he must run away or be sold.

Through William's and Callie's stories, readers learn how the Underground Railroad worked. People who used and operated the Railroad had code words. Those who helped sneak slaves from one place to another were called conductors. Escaping slaves were sometimes referred to as packages. Slaves disguised themselves, sometime as members of the opposite sex or as white people. They looked and listened for secret signals, lights in windows and messages hidden in spiritual songs as they moved stealthily through the night to avoid slave hunters.

William and Callie meet when they become part of a group traveling together. Their party moves slowly northward, eventually escaping into Canada. When Callie turns 20, she and William marry. They're able to return to the United States when the 13th Amendment passes. They bring Martha to live with them, and they share their story about the cost of freedom with their children.

Christian Beliefs

Quakers, a religious group also known as the Society of Friends, disagree with slavery and often help slaves escape. Slaves sometimes sing religious songs called spirituals, which their white owners largely ignore. Spirituals often have double meanings, allowing slaves to send messages to one another.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Former slaves, such as John Parker and Harriet Tubman, risk their lives to help hundreds of slaves escape to freedom. Escaped slave Frederick Douglass inspires others by writing an abolitionist newspaper. White abolitionists such as the Rev. John Rankin offer shelter and aid to slaves despite angering local slave owners by his actions.


Slave owners beat slaves, but no graphic depictions are included.



Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics :

What did you know about the Underground Railroad before you read this book?
* What new facts or information did you learn?
* What would have been the scariest part of being a slave running to freedom?

Who helps and supports the slaves while they are on the run?
* Why do these people risk their lives to help strangers?

Additional Comments/Notes

This review is brought to you by Focus on the Family, a donor-based ministry. Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 12


Barbara Brooks-Simon






Record Label



National Geographic Society


On Video

Year Published




We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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