Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan won a Newbery Honor this year for this poetic historical picture book.
This book is about 11 slaves, their lives, their past, their dreams, and how much they cost. The author, Bryan, came across a document of the Fairchilds Appraisement of the Estate document. The document is shown above. This document is what inspired Bryan to research, studied, and wrote what inspired her in free verse poetry.
Bryan also painted all of the illustrations, including the one shown above and below. The first page of poetry tells the life as a slave with the Fairchilds and their wishes for freedom. The second page on each slave is a poem about their past.
Freedom Over Me gets 4 out of 5 stars in my book review. I think the story concept is fabulous. I love the idea of life of slaves on an estate. I love the idea of a book teachers can use in multiple sittings; I love that a teacher could teach at the same time language arts as well as social studies. I love that the information is written poetically; free verse is usually really great for a read aloud and reluctant readers.
However, there were a few things I would've liked to see differently. The text is a little bland; the poems didn't grab or entice me to keep reading. I also didn't like that the appraisal document that Bryan included and was inspired by only has 10 slaves on the list. John never appears on the appraisal, but Bryan included him. This little fact is bothersome. Why add a slave that wasn't on the document, or why not add the slave to the document if you liked the sound of eleven slaves for a book? This little detail is of course going to be noticed, so I feel Bryan should have at least included the reason for her action in the author's note.
Overall, this is a beautiful picture book. I feel it could've been better, but it is definitely a great purchase for a school or public library collection. If you love American History or teach 5th grade or Social Studies this book would be a good purchase as well.
Happy American History Picture Book Reading!
Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams by Ashley Bryan
Rating: 4/5 stars
Best For: 10-14 yrs old, 4th through 8th grade
Worth a Check Out: Yes.
Buy It or Not: Not.
Read Aloud: It's a big long for a one sitting read aloud, but you could read it in small group settings over a couple different sittings.
Lesson Ideas: American History and poetry.
Any other ideas on how you would use this book in the classroom?