Jump Ship to Freedom
This historical fiction book by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier is from the "Arabus Family Saga" and is published by Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group.
Jump Ship to Freedom is written for kids ages 10 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Daniel Arabus is a 14-year-old slave in colonial America. His father, who recently died at sea, had fought in the Revolutionary War. For his service, Daniel's father was paid in "soldiers' notes," a written promise of cash at a future date. When Daniel's father died, Daniel's master took the notes.
Daniel makes a smoky fire in his master's house as a diversion so he can steal the notes. Daniel believes the notes belong to him and his mother. Daniel's master, Captain Ivers, distrusts Daniel and takes him on his next voyage with the intent of selling him in the West Indies. Daniel's mother stays with Mrs. Ivers, the captain's wife.
Captain Ivers' brig, the Junius Brutus, transports items from Connecticut to trade in New York, Philadelphia and the West Indies. The day-to-day operations of the ship keep the crew busy, including Daniel and his friend Birdsey Brooks, who is Captain Ivers' nephew. In a dreadful storm, two crew members, including Birdsey, are lost at sea. Then the mast breaks in half, leaving the ship crippled. The captain decides to turn back instead of continuing to the West Indies. When the ship finally reaches New York Harbor for repairs, Daniel starts a fire on the ship to create a diversion so he can escape.
Daniel is in constant danger of being caught because people tend to suspect a lone, unfamiliar, young black man as a runaway slave. In New York, Daniel receives help from a slave girl named Carrie, a tavern owner named Black Sam Fraunces and an ailing Quaker named Peter Fatherscreft. Daniel learns that men representing the 13 states have gathered in Philadelphia to write a constitution joining the states into a single nation. Daniel hopes the new government will be able to repay the Revolutionary War notes so Daniel can buy his and his mother's freedom.
A representative to the Continental Congress, which meets in New York, notifies Fatherscreft of a possible compromise made between the states regarding the issues of slavery. The Southern states agree that slavery can be outlawed in the Northern states if the Northern states will agree to the proposed fugitive-slave law, which requires people in the Northern states to return escaped slaves. Fatherscreft plans to deliver the message to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Fraunces asks Daniel to help Fatherscreft, who is ill, on his trip from New York to Philadelphia.
Daniel's travels as a runaway slave are complicated. Fatherscreft dies before reaching Philadelphia with the message. Before dying, he asks Daniel to deliver the message to William Samuel Johnson. Daniel agrees to deliver the message, but he realizes that the message seals his fate to remain a slave. His promise to Fatherscreft overpowers Daniel's desire to run. Daniel delivers the message, and the compromise becomes part of the Constitution.
Daniel returns to Captain Ivers, but Johnson makes a deal with Captain Ivers to free Daniel and his mother a few years later.
Fatherscreft quizzes Daniel about his self-worth and says every individual is valued in the Lord's eyes. Fatherscreft works with other leaders to influence the writing of the Constitution to protect the equality of all. He says it is the important work of the Lord and calls the compromise of the fugitive-slave law "godless." He would prefer that slavery would be abolished but admits that the compromise is a step toward that goal.
Other Belief Systems
The story refers to people cussing, but doesn't specify the words. Black people are sometimes referred to as the n-word. Captain Ivers makes Daniel strip so Captain Ivers can look for the missing notes. He beats Daniel. Daniel fears severe floggings for not working to Captain Ivers' satisfaction. Big Thom, a free black man, slaps Daniel.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Who in the book kept his word?
- What happened because of it?
- What does it mean to keep your word?
- What helps you honor what you have said to others?
What does the Bible say about this? (Proverbs 12:22, Matthew 5:37, Ephesians 4:25)
How does Daniel feel differently about himself after he meets others who treat him with kindness?
- Name someone who has treated you kindly.
How does being treated kindly change the way you feel about that person? About others?
Why did Daniel's actions require bravery?
- Could you have done what he did?
- How would you feel if you were the only person in your school that believed what you were doing was right?
Why might you want to be brave even if you thought no one would help you?
Describe Daniel and Birdsey's friendship.
Would Birdsey have helped Daniel escape? Explain your answer.
Why was Birdsey treated well?
- Why was Daniel treated poorly?
- Was it fair that Birdsey was treated better because he was the captain's nephew?
- Who in your family has treated you with favoritism?
- When have you felt that you were treated unfairly?
- How have you treated others differently because they were your favorite or not?
- Why should or shouldn't you do this? (Luke 6:33)
Alcohol: Rum and beer are common drinks in a time when water may not have been safe for consumption.
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Readability Age Range
10 and up
Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group
William Allen White Master List, 1983