Escape to Freedom: The Underground Railroad Adventures of Callie and William
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.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
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.
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
Slave owners beat slaves, but no graphic depictions are included.
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?
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Readability Age Range
8 to 12
National Geographic Society