The Dressmaker

Interest Level: Mature/ Adult

France, 1912. A young woman is working as a maid for an older lady. She is suppose to be making dresses. She is a seamstress afterall, not just a cleaning lady. She dreams of a life where she can design and create her own dresses, far away from the prowling hands of the mistress’s son.

Tess Collins is a poor girl who has spent a great deal of time waiting on others. One day, she finally decides that she has had enough. After requesting her wages she storms out of the house in Cherbourg once and for all and heads towards to docks. There, awaiting departure, is the Titanic. Through quick thinking and even quicker talking she is able to find passage aboard the ship as a personal maid to known other than Lady Duff Gordon. This pivotal moment will change Tess’s life forever.

As we all know, 1912 was the year the Titanic sank. Luckily for Tess she makes it to New York. There she will discover that the sinking ship was just the tip of her personal iceberg! She will be stuck between two worlds: that of the rich and that of the poor. She is treated one minute as a servant and the other as a middle class professional. She will find she must not only choose one world for her financial security, but for the security of her heart as well.

 

 

Cautions:

*Tess mentions twice that the son of her mistress in Cherbourg assaulted her.

*Lady Duff Gordon is incredibly manipulative and self-centered. She does only what is best for her.

*There is a lot of lying, bribery, deception, and blame during the trials.

*Tess is kissed by two different gentlemen, both with her permission.

*A character commits suicide from being called a coward.

Awesomeness:

*This book is historical for three reasons: The Titanic’s unfortunate voyage, the change in the fashion industry, and the suffragist movement. All three events are mentioned and woven throughout the story.

*Tess is able to work her way out of a difficult life situation and learn to make it on her own merits.

*Several characters intentionally search for the truth and support one another as they heal from the tragedy.

Pick up this book and travel across the Atlantic with Tess. You won’t be sorry.

 

Lesson Plan Ideas:

*Research the sinking of the Titanic.

*Research the fashion trends in the early 1900s.

*Research Lady Duff Gordon and Coco Chanel.

*Discuss the importance of respecting those who are different than us.

*Discuss Lady Duff Gordon’s attitude toward others.

*Look at dress patterns from the 1900s. Try your hand at designing and sewing something. 

The Underground Railroad

Interest Level: Adult

 

Intense. Sad. Overwhelming. Cruel. These are the words that come to mind when describing   The Underground Railroad (Pulitzer Prize Winner) (National Book Award Winner) (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Colson Whitehead.

The story follows Cora, a slave in the deep south. Woven throughout her story are the stories of her mother, grandmother, and other characters in the novel. Colson Whitehead does a marvelous job of weaving these stories together into a seamless tale.

The novel’s central focus is on Cora and her journey north on the underground railroad. She is first approached about this journey by Caesar, another slave on the plantation. It wasn’t until her master died and his brother took over the farm that she even considered running away.

Cora and Caesar take off together and make it to Charleston, S.C. There they become comfortable with life as freed blacks. That is, until they are discovered. Cora is being hunted by Ridgeway, a slave catcher out for revenge & vindication. He had attempted to hunt down Cora’s mother when she run away but never found her. He is driven by hate and a need to clear his name.

When writing these posts, I always struggle with exactly how much of the story to share. I don’t want to give away too many details and spoil the emotion that will inevitably come along with the first time you read this. But I do feel that I must share some serious concerns with you. Please forgive me if you feel as though I have ruined the storyline for you.

Cautions:

*This book is written in vivid detail. There are scenes of rape, torture, and murder that are described. Corpses hang along roads with genitals cut off. A slave is tortured & burned on the front lawn of his master’s house while he hosts a luncheon!

*As a history teacher, I was annoyed that Whitehead chose to make the underground a real railroad underground. As a literary lover, I can appreciate the attempt to change it up a bit and be more creative.

Overall, this book was hard to read and the ending was disappointing. I actually listened to it as an audiobook and that may have made getting through it even more difficult. It’s one thing to read something so intense to yourself; it’s another to have it read to you!

I would not suggest letting younger readers read this book. It is definitely for mature audiences only!  

So Fair a Lady

Interest Level: High School/Adult

This is book 1 in a 3 book series by Amber Lynn Perry. I received this series for FREE through a deal the author had with Amazon. As you have probably noticed by  now, I am a sucker for historical fiction. Add some Jesus and romance to that and you can pretty much guarantee I’ll read it!

I would like to say something right off: just because a book is Christian, does not mean it is approved for all ages. As you’ll see, the struggles faced by the characters in this novel or relatable, but mature. So, just keep that in mind.

The setting of this novel is before the official start of the American Revolution, but Boston is an occupied city. The novel opens up with the death of Dr. Campbell. Eliza and Kitty now find themselves orphaned. Worry overtakes Eliza. But soon after, she finds herself the recipient of a marriage proposal from Samuel Martin, a captain in the British Army. Though she is excited, Eliza cannot accept right away. Her father left her with a note that unravels everything she thought she knew about him. Her refusal gives us a glimpse into the true character of Samuel.

Not long after the proposal, Eliza is awakened by a pounding on her door. She opens it to find Thomas Watson, a local printer and member of the Sons of Liberty, anxiously standing there. He quickly explains that she and Kitty are in danger and must come with him. Something in Eliza prompts her to believe him. She and Kitty gather only necessary items and take off with Thomas. They make it into the family fields just as the British arrive at the house. From their hiding spot, they are able to see the British soldiers enter the house and ransack it.

Thomas manages to get the girls to Sandwich within a few days. There, they hide out and try to figure out what to do next. Meanwhile, Samuel is distraught over the “kidnapping” of his future bride. He pursues the trail wherever it may lead. And of course, it eventually leads to Sandwich.

Throughout the weeks that Eliza and Kitty are hiding in Sandwich, Eliza will begin to learn the truth: the truth behind her father’s beliefs, the truth behind Samuel’s characters, and the truth about love.

 

Cautions:

-Thomas is being blackmailed by British soldiers. This is the reason he must run.

-Samuel is EVIL!! It becomes pretty obvious early on.

-Eliza is nearly raped by two drunken sailors.

-Samuel meets a horrific end.  

Awesomeness:

-Power of friendship, love and sacrifice

-Thomas is super sweet!

-The characters continually lean on and seek guidance from the Lord.


Lesson Plan Ideas:

Discuss:

-Not feeling forced to date or marry someone

-The roles of men and women in the time. Focus on the difference between Samuel and Thomas’ feelings about a woman’s ideas.

-At the time, people were loyal to their colony and then state before they were loyal to America as a country. This will continue to be felt even in the 1860s.

 

Research:

-Diseases of the 1700s

-Sons of Liberty

-Tea Act and the colonial response (Tea Party)

-The “Join or Die” flag and it’s origination.

Respond:

-In chapter 6 we read, “Those of us in the colonies are treated like second class citizens. Our king robs us with his taxes and we have no proper representation in Parliament. Our lives will never be the same if we continue to let King George dictate his will at every delicate whim.”  Do you think all the colonists felt this way? Can you list some of the taxes? Why did the king begin to tax the colonists?

-In Chapter 26 Thomas hears Dr. Campbell’s words: “The pursuit of your righteous desires is worth every sacrifice.” How does this quote relate to Thomas and to the colonial cause?

Wedded to War

Interest Level: High School/Adult

 

Forget being wedded to war, I am wedded to this book! I did NOT want to put it down, but I HAD to put it down a few times. This book made me cringe, gasp, moan in fear, sigh in frustration, and talk back to the characters. All of which are signs of a great novel.

Quick summary: Charlotte volunteers to be trained as a nurse for the Civil War. Her mom, sister, and suitor all disapprove of her decision. After training in New York, she is sent to Washington, D.C. to serve in the local hospital. There she is thrust into the hardships of being a woman in a male dominated world as well as the hardships of war. Woven throughout the war is Charlotte’s personal struggle with following her calling and what society deems appropriate.

Long summary: Charlotte is considered a spinster because she is 28 and not yet wed. She is being courted by Phineas Hastings, a wealthy New Yorker. Much to his chagrin, Charlotte volunteers to be trained as a nurse for the war. He figures this will be a short term infatuation and she will eventually put it all behind her and marry him. A few chapters in, we are introduced to Ruby, an Irish immigrant also living in New York. She is struggling to make ends meet and her husband Matthew recently shipped off to war. She finds herself in Five Points seeking work. She meets the a group of women who place women of high moral character but low socioeconomic status as domestics.

As fate would have it, Ruby is placed in the house of Phineas’ mother. There she meets the ill tempered Phineas. Phineas feels the need to control all the women in his life and out of fear for something Ruby overheard, he rapes her. Once violated Ruby takes to a life of prostitution. She meets Dr. Blackwell at her office in Five Points. There Dr. Blackwell matched Ruby up with a job in Washington, D.C. She is put under the care of… you guessed it, Charlotte. Ruby works hard and diligently and doesn’t know of Phineas’ and Charlotte’s connection until months after being in D.C.  

Charlotte, her sister Alice, and Ruby continue to work for the Sanitary Commission. All the while, Phineas is attempting to retrieve Charlotte and convince her to marry him. Phineas’ stoops to some really low levels in order to protect his wealth. It is his character that caused all of the emotions mentioned at the beginning of this post. 

I do not want to say too much more for fear of ruining the story and for you chance to make faces such as mine! (Note: these are from my instastory!)

Cautions:

*Phineas is a terrible man. He does rape Ruby and then blackmail her about it.

*Prostitution is discussed and for a short time Ruby is a prostitute.

*Ruby toys with idea of abortion and suicide.

*This novel is set during war, as such, wounds, fever, and amputations are all discussed.

*Be prepared to discuss abusive treatment or thoughts toward women.

Overall, this book is AMAZING!! I have not felt this kind of reaction to a book in a long time. I had to put it down and walk away a few times from frustration with the characters!! But I could not wait to come back to it! Jocelyn Green also does a wonderful job weaving in Biblical truths that stand the test of time. I love how Charlotte, Caleb, Edward, and Ruby all quote scripture to each other as a form of encouragement and love.

 

Lesson Plan Ideas:

*Chapter Two discusses the secession of Virginia and the attack on Union forces in Baltimore. Research the city of Baltimore and why they might attack Union forces. What was Lincoln’s response? You can check out The Hour of Peril as a resource for this. 

*Research all the historical figures in this novel:

-Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell

-Dorothea Dix

-Robert E. Lee

-Abraham Lincoln

-George B. McClellan

-Frederick Law Olmsted

-General Winfield Scott (Scott’s Great Snake/Anaconda Plan)

 

*Research the inspiration for Charlotte: Georgeanna Woolsey

*Research the battles mentioned:

-Bull Run

-The Peninsula Campaign

-The Second Battle of Bull Run

*Watch the scene from America the Story of US: Civil War about the minie ball

*Look into Five Points and the Irish Riots of 1863 (Watch Gangs of New York for mature readers or used selected scenes that show the Conscription Riots.)

*Chapter 19 mentions Rose Greenhow, the main character from Wild Rose. You could have your child read Wild Rose: The True Story of a Civil War Spy or research female spies in the Civil War.

*In chapter 30, Charlotte meets Marty, a fallen soldier. She learns that Marty is actually a woman. Look into female soldiers in the Civil War. There are some great scholarly works out there about female soldiers. They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War is an excellent resource.

*The end of the book offers an insight into the true parts of the novel, including social norms.

*Jocelyn Green offers a free supplemental guide on her website for this novel. 

Susan B. Anthony

Grade Level: Third

I am by no means an ardent down-with-man kind of woman, but I am proud to be a woman. I enjoy studying the women who fought so hard for me to have legal rights and a voice in my government. Susan B. Anthony is one such woman. I have actually had this book since I was in elementary school. Hopefully, it’ll last long enough for my future daughter(s) to read! 

Susan B. Anthony Champion of Women’s Rights written by Helen Albee Monsell is a quick, easy read as an introduction to Miss Anthony and the Women’s Rights Movement.

This book focuses on the childhood of Susan. We learn what her life was like in Massachusetts and why she moved to New York. We learn the struggles her family faced and the rare opportunities provided to Susan and her older sister.

Susan was allowed opportunities that most young women of her day were denied. She regularly attended school and her father even had a school room build in their Rochester home. She experienced the life a bobbin girl, a school teacher, and student of higher education. 

This book is not super well written. It jumps from scene to scene with very little transition. Out of nowhere, Susan suddenly had another sister. But the overall point is well made. Susan’s father was very progressive for his time. Not only did he ensure Susan had a good education, but her gave her experience in his mill. There Susan learned that legally a woman had no authority over her wages. That both children and wives had a legal obligation to give control of their wages to their husbands and fathers.

It was these experiences that opened her eyes to the needs of equality between men and women. This book is definitely a great read for a young girl first learning about the leaders of the Women’s Rights Movement. 

 

Lesson Ideas:

-The 8.24 TEKS states: The student understands the major reform movements of the 19th century. The student is expected to: (A)  describe the historical development of the abolitionist movement; and (B)  evaluate the impact of reform movements, including educational reform, temperance, the women’s rights movement, prison reform, abolition, the labor reform movement, and care of the disabled.

-Research Susan B. Anthony & Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s role in the Women’s Movement. (TEKS 8.22B  describe the contributions of significant political, social, and military leaders of the United States such as Frederick Douglass, John Paul Jones, James Monroe, Stonewall Jackson, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.)

-Watch America The Story of Us: Division; Discuss the effect of the Industrial Revolution on young girls. Compare that to what is described in the book.

-Watch Ken Burn’s Documentary: Not for Ourselves Alone; Compare the information about Susan’s childhood to what was read in the book.

-For Older Girls watch Iron Jawed Angels and Suffragette; discuss the struggles women faced. Why might not all woman agree on the need for change?

-Watch Bad Romance Women’s Suffrage by Soomo Publishing on youtube. (They took the lyrics and made it represent women’s rights. Super fun!)

5 Great Reads for Black History Month

 

Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons

Grade Level: Fourth

I can’t even deal! This book was so well written. Ann Rinaldi has written a wonderfully, heart-wrenching novel about Phillis Wheatley. I am ashamed to say I really did not know much about her other than she was a slave who was known for her poetry. The novel chronicles her story from the moment of abduction until the start of the American Revolution. Little is really known about her life, especially once she married.

This book would be a great accompaniment to any American Revolution study. There are a lot of important events in Boston that are mentioned. Phillis meets personally with Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.

A word of caution: the trip on the slaver is pretty intense for Phillis. Her mother is thrown overboard and she nearly starves to death. All Africans are referred to as negra or negro; the more derogatory term is not present in the novel. Phillis, while treated as a daughter of the Wheatley’s, is still seen as a slave. She may be relieved of many normal slave duties, but her masters, especially Nathaniel, still remind her of her place.

Lesson Ideas:

Research each Boston event she mentions.

Read her poems and compare any events to the novel.

Write your own poem about an important event or person in your life.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Grade Level: Fifth

I first read this book  in junior high. I do not really remember my initial thoughts, but on this go around, I thoroughly enjoyed it! This book is a powerful tale of the power of family and staying strong through adversity. The Logan Family is a great example of a strong family. They rely heavily on each other to get them through deaths of friends, threats, and fire. I think this should be a regular read for junior high students.

Caution: the N word is used regularly through this novel. Cassie gets into a fist fight with a girl who mistreats her. Some local African-Americans are attacked and severely burned by a group of whites. Cassie’s own father is attacked for encouraging people to shop in Vicksburg and not at the Wallace store. Stacy’s friend TJ gets in with the wrong crowd and is accused of killing a white man. He is brutally beaten and nearly lynched. This book does not sugar coat the difficulties African-American sharecroppers faced in the south. Mr. Morrison also shares the story of the deaths of his parents (pg 147-150).

Lesson Ideas:

Write a Journal Entry as Cassie explaining her thoughts on the books they received at the beginning of the novel.

Research sharecropping

Research Jim Crow Laws & segregation

Sounder

Grade Level: Fifth

This is a sweet story about a man and his dog. Set during the days of sharecropping, Sounder shows us the love between humans and dogs. There are no names used in this story. One day the boy’s father comes home with a ham we soon learn is stolen. Eventually, the sheriff comes to pick up the boy’s father. In the midst of his arrest, his dog is shot. Sounder runs off for months and the boy’s father is taken to jail and eventually put on a chain gang. Once Sounder returns, severely disfigured but well, the boy decides to venture off in search of his father. On one adventure, the boy befriends an old school teacher who asks him to stay so that the boy may receive an education. The boy’s mother agrees and he only returns to help with harvest. During the years, the boy’s father has been working only to return one day out of the blue. Do to a severe injury, they let him go. Now father and dog are both shells of their former selves. The boy’s father goes out one day alone, never to return. He passes away in the forest do to his injuries and hard labor. Sounder, too, passes soon after.

This book is only 116 pages but it packs an emotional punch! The arrest of the father is really harsh. He spends years on a chain gang for the theft of a ham.

I guess, in a way, this book is a coming of age story. It is based on a story told to the author.

Lesson Ideas:

Research sharecropping and Jim Crow laws

Write an alternative ending to the book.

Give all the characters names based on their character/personality.

Color Me Dark: The Diary of Nellie Lee Love, the Great Migration North

Grade Level: Fourth/Fifth

I loved the Dear America series when I was a young girl. It is so wonderful how the style of these books put you into the everyday thoughts of the character.

Nellie Lee Love is from Tennessee. It is 1919 and the Great War is over. Her family lives in a multi-generational home and runs a funeral business. The tensions in the south are increasing so Nellie’s father decided to move himself and two daughters to Chicago near his brother. There he will start a new funeral home and have a better life.

The Love family is truly a wonderful example of a family whose first priority is Jesus followed by family. They are not exempt from adversity even in Chicago but they never sway from their love for each other. While in Chicago Nellie and her family become more involved in the ever growing NAACP as well as the suffrage movement.

Cation: While swimming at the lake, a neighbor swims into the white’s section. He is so terrified by the uproar of the whites, that he drowns. This causes a massive riot in the streets of Chicago.

Lesson Ideas:

Write your own diary for a year.

Research the causes and battles of World War I.

Respond to Nellie’s comment on page 130: “Will there ever be a time when people stop hating and hurting one another?”

Respond to Reverend Prince’s comment on page 123: “Ignorance and fear breed violence. Knowledge is the only way to overcome intolerance.”

12 Years a Slave

Interest Level: High School/Adult

This book is a powerful true story told from the man himself. Solomon Northup was drugged and kidnapped by slave catchers. This was common practice in the north after the Fugitive Slave Law. Free blacks were warned not to talk to anyone they did not know. Solomon finds himself sold down south. For twelve years he will live the life of a hardworking plantation slave. Until, finally, one day he is reunited with his family.

Caution: this book is for mature audiences. It is a personal narrative set in the 1840s. There are very brutal scenes and hard truths. I would encourage any parent to read this book prior to allowing your child to read it.

 

This is an amazing primary source for sure!

Lesson Ideas:

Research other slave’s stories like Frederick Douglass.

Research newspaper articles warning of slave catchers.

Research the underground railroad and Harriet Tubman.

For further reading, check out some of my previous posts: Chains, Forge, Ashes, Flygirl, and Elijah

Ashes

ashes

 

Grade Level: Fifth

Finally, after seven loooooong years, Laurie Halse Anderson brings us the final installment in her Seeds of America Trilogy: Ashes. This book wraps up the story of Isabel, Ruthie, and Curzon so nicely and puts a neat little bow on top.

Ashes picks up several years after Isabel and Curzon marched out of Valley Forge. At the onset of this novel, Curzon and Isabel are hiding in the woods a mere feet away from the sign that will tell them just how far they have left to travel… and a group of redcoats.

Very early in this book Isabel finds the very object she has been searching for since the middle of Chains: Ruth. After escaping undetected from the British soldiers and Virginia militia, Isabel and Curzon arrive at the Lockton Plantation in South Carolina. They climb a tree to wait for nightfall. They have learned that being patient and scouting out residences is the best way to go, but no sooners has Isabel climbed the tree, when a young slave girl strolls from the barn. Immediately, Isabel senses a familiar air about this young woman. After a few seconds, Isabel recognizes her for her she is and throwing caution to the wind, she runs to greet Ruth. Unfortunately, the greeting and the subsequent travels are not at all what Isabel had in mind.

Through kind actions of the older slave couple at the plantation, Isabel, Curzon, Ruth and another slave from the plantation, Aberdeen, escape. They manage to travel through the woods toward freedom. Much of this time, Isabel is trying to get Ruth to speak to her. The group eventually finds themselves in the midst of the Continental Army and their French Allies.

Isabel and Curzon continue to find themselves in situations where their loyalty to each other is tested. Isabel’s greatest focus during the war was never on those involved in the war, but on finding her sister. Now that she will be forced to choose a side. The final major battle of the American Revolution looms before her, Isabel is forced to choose a side. Ruth seems to want to follow Aberdeen… toward the British. Curzon, the boy she has spent years with, is passionately fighting for the Americans. Which should she choose? How will she know which is the right choice? Can she guarantee her freedom?

In this novel, Anderson will ask her readers to think about independence for all. Isabel will be faced with a difficult decision. And she will ultimately follow her heart.

*Click the cover to check it out on Amazon!*

Lesson Plan Ideas:

*Check out my workbook on Teacher’s Pay Teachers

*Create an Acrostic poem using ISABEL and CURZON’s names. (Or all the characters from the novels.) 

*Write a response to Ms. Serafina’s quote on page 39: “The greatest strength of all is daring to love.”

*Take a page from Isabel’s book. As a family, talk about memories from special events.

*On page 84, Isabel describes the “bedraggled” soldiers. Research the struggles faced by the Patriot army.

*Research the significance of the location of Yorktown.

*Compare the camp at Williamsburg to the camp at Valley Forge. Use chapter XVII to help describe Williamsburg and pages 73-127 in Forge to help describe Valley Forge.

*On page 132, Isabel discusses the walls of Jericho. Read the story in Joshua Chapter 6.

*Compare a regular battle with a siege. How are the two strategies different?

*Research the ending of Yorktown. Who surrendered in Cornwallis’ stead?

*The appendix has some great questions and resources too.

Forge

forge

Grade Level: Fifth

Forge is the second book in the Seeds of America trilogy. I have already written about my unconditional love for the first book, Chains and I fully intend to dote just as much about the final book in this trilogy: Ashes.

Forge picks up with the prelude which is the moment Isabel and Curzon reach the other side of the river. Chapter one picks up 9 months after Curzon and Isabel’s escape. We quickly learn that Curzon is alone because Isabel ran away from him.

I cannot conclusively say that Forge is my favorite of the 3 because I have not Ashes, but it is REALLY AMAZING!

(Click the cover to check it out on Amazon!)

 

 

On his way to find the road to Albany, Curzon finds himself in the middle of the Battle of Saratoga. Curzon follows his instincts and saves a young colonial soldier named Ebenezer. Caught up in the constant movement of camp and in an attempt to further escape slavery, Curzon finds himself signing up for the duration of the war.

Moving out from New York, the 16th Massachusetts beds down in a small town outside of Philadelphia: Valley Forge. There the colonial soldiers must build their own huts with limited to no tools. In order to motivate the soldiers, Washington offers $12 to the squad who builds their hut the fastest.

Curzon lives side by side with the other soldiers at Valley Forge. But despite his service, he still must handle personal attacks and slights made at him because of his color. Curzon continues to serve awaiting the day the war is over and his freedom is granted.

One day, all the men line up because George Washington is bringing in the Continental Congress to show the needs of the men. Among the Congressmen is Mr. Bellingham, Curzon’s master. Through smooth talking and a white lie, Bellingham gets Curzon to move into Moore Hall.

Suddenly and without warning, Curzon finds himself waiting on Bellingham and the other Congressmen. He is angry and bitter, but must maintain proper behavior for the sake of the house maid: Isabel.

The rest of the novel follows Curzon’s desire to rescue himself and Isabel from the life of slavery.

Forge ends just like Chains, with Curzon and Isabel escaping the chains that bind them.

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As with any book set in a war, there are a few more gruesome scenes. On page 14, Curzon describes the death of a British soldier Eben kills. A few characters do die throughout the novel from sickness or battle.

This book is also set during a time of inequality. Curzon will be made fun of and mistreated do to his color.

The majority of the characters in this book are young men who are fighting for independence. In one instance, Benny rips his pants and as a result he “cusses” and his fellow continentals give him a hard time about the possible consequences of frostbite. (Page 95)

War changes people. The reader can see the changes in Mr. Bellingham. On page 196, he tells Curzon that if he tries anything, Isabel will suffer his punishment.

We leave this novel much the same way we left Chains. But this time, Curzon and Isabel are not alone; they are marched out of Valley Forge by Curzon’s brothers-in-arms.

Lesson Plan Ideas:

*Check out my workbook!

*This book is historical fiction and as such lends itself to a lot of research ideas.

-Research the Battle of Saratoga (TEKS 8.4C, the first 10 chapters are all set in Oct 1777)

-Research the Hessians

-Research the resources of the British Soldiers

-Research the role of women in the fighting

-Research the Spy ring created by Washington

-Research the different ways slave owners punished slaves for running away

-Research the use of slaves and Native Americans in the Continental and British armies.

-Research the assistance of Spain and France   

*Compare the officers in the continental army to the privates.

-Write a diary entry as a private at Valley Forge and express your thoughts about the situation of the officers versus your situation.

*Write a response to Silvenus’ thoughts on page 121: “This camp is a forge for the army; it’s testing our mettle. Instead of heat and hammer, our trials are cold and hunger. Question is, what are we made of?”

*Analyze the image: Washington presenting Congressional Committee to soldiers at Valley Forge

*Write a response to Curzon’s thoughts: “We were American soldiers and there was pride enough in that to make a fellow stand tall.” (pg 144)

*Write a diary entry as Isabel discussing your desire to leave with Gideon but your fears at leaving Curzon.

Chains

chains

Grade Level: Fifth

I can not say enough about Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains. I have read this book three times and as a history teacher I absolutely adore it.

Chains follows two slave girls, Isabel and Ruth, who are sold to a Tory family in New York. Isabel and Ruth should be free but the nephew of their deceased owner sold them instead. Once arriving in New York, Isabel makes friends with Curzon. He tells her that she should keep her eyes and ears open in the house of Lockton. He says that she might learn something of value the Patriots would reward her for.

After several instances of abuse and the selling of her sister, Isabel makes up her mind to find out anything that will set her free. She reports several events straight to the Patriot military. (In one instance Madam Lockton finds her and has her severally punished by branding her face with an I.) Cuzon finds himself a POW and is locked up with other patriots in jail. Isabel visits him regularly to the great dismay of her mistress. Eventually, Isabel will use her wits to break Curzon out of jail. Together they run from New York.  

While she does not gain her freedom legally, she does find freedom. This book is the first of a trilogy. Isabel crosses her river Jordan and there we leave her until Forge.

This book is historical fiction and therefore there are a few things in which to be aware. Ruth suffers from seizures. They call them fits and Mistress Lockton even refers to her having the devil in her. Mrs. Lockton attempts to beat Ruth at one point but Isabel takes it for her. Isabel takes a serious beating and a branding. Toward the end of the book Mrs. Lockton locks her in the potato bin.

The American Revolution sets the backdrop for this incredible story. Each chapter begins with a section from a primary source. It is great to make connections between what the Patriots were fighting for and for what Isabel is fighting. I recommend this book as a support for your American Revolution unit.

*You can check this book out at Amazon by clicking the cover below.*

Lesson Plan Ideas:

*Talk about the location of Rhode Island and New York. It’s important for students to understand that slavery extended throughout all 13 colonies.

*Look up the writings of Phyllis Wheatley. Compare the content of her writings with Isabel’s struggles. (page 228)

*In Chapter 4, Isabel tells the reader: “Ruth and me were housed belows the packet-boats deck with six sheep, a pen of hogs, three families from Scotland, and fifty casks of dried cod.” What does this tell you about the treatment and views of slaves? Why might the families from Scotland be below deck too?

*On page 43, Becky complains about having to make tea. She even says that she could be tarred and feathered for making tea. Why is this? Why is she not allowed to make tea? Who would tar and feather her?

*Read the primary source on page 79. Talk about the importance of Abigail Adam’s idea. Compare what she is asking with the primary source on page 105. What is the situation for women at this time? (This is a great lead into the women’s movement.)

*Curzon and Isabel are talking about freedom on page 160-161. Isabel has suffered from a severe beating and branding by this point. She tells Curzon: “You are blind. They don’t want us free. They just want liberty for themselves.” Do you think this is true? Can you see examples of this in the novel? When is slavery abolished?

*Write a response to Isabel’s comment on page 182: “I was changed between two nations.”

*Write a diary entry as Isabel responding to Nathan Hale’s comment: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” (Isabel’s retelling is on page 197)

*There is a great appendix section in the back where the author answers several questions about her novel.

*There is also a discussion section in the back.

Elijah of Buxton

 

elijah

Grade Level: Fifth

I’ll be honest: I picked this book because it was historical fiction! I just can’t help myself. I am familiar with this author’s other works and I knew it would be quality.

Elijah is accused of being “fra-gile” by his friends and family. Growing up Buxton’s first freeborn child, he was allowed the luxury of a childhood. Unlike the adults in the settlement, most of the kids had never been a slave. Elijah spends his days attending school, playing with his best friend Cooter, helping out at the stables and helping Mr. Leroy. When he isn’t working or attending school, Elijah enjoys fishing with only Old Flapjack the mule for a companion.

The goal of the settlement is “One helping one to uplift all.” They do just that. The characters are so sweet and encouraging to one another. The only odd character of the group is the preacher. He is not the actual preacher of the settlement but he calls himself a preacher. He carries around a fancy pistol and a lot of odd stories.

About three-fourths of this book is back story and chronicles the daily adventures of Elijah. The real action starts when Elijah finds himself on the back of a horse headed for America. Elijah’s dear friend, Mr. Leroy spends everyday working to save enough money to buy his family out of slavery. Finally, he manages to save enough. He is planning on how to buy his family with Elijah’s father when the preacher appears and offers to take the money for Leroy to a little logging village an hour out of Detroit. Leroy is so excited about his family that he doesn’t heed Elijah’s father’s warning. The days that follow send Elijah on the grandest adventure of his life. He is forced to accompany Mr. Leroy to the small town outside Detroit to try and find out where the preacher is and what happened to his money. There, Elijah is confronted by the truths of slavery and goes from a “fra-gile” boy to a courageous young man.

The biggest caution in this book is the character of the preacher. It is clear from the beginning of the novel that he is not a very good person. He is a smooth talker and manipulator. Towards the end of the novel, Elijah does find the preacher near Detroit. He is dead. He was killed brutally by slave catchers. One of the slaves Elijah meets describes the scene: “I knowed when they brung him in here and bust his teeth out and split his tongue in two… I (Elijah speaking now) could see now it was ropes that were keeping the Preacher’s arms spread out to the sides. He was strunged up twixt two beams. Another rope was wrapped ‘round and ‘round his neck and was pinching his throat narrow and tight.” (Page 304-305)

Elijah nearly uses the N word, but catches himself. He receives QUITE the lesson from Mr. Leroy on pages 96-99. On the way to the lake, Elijah’s Ma and Mrs. Holton start discussing their lives as slaves. Ma quotes her mistress and uses the word “pickaninnies” (208).

The dialogue is also a little challenging but could make for a great read aloud.

This book is well researched and Christopher Paul Curtis does not sugar coat the evils of slavery. I think this book would be a great introduction to the topic of slavery and the underground railroad.

 

Lesson Ideas:

*There are several ideas/topics you could journal about.

-The Buxton creed is “One helping one to uplift all”. Write a journal entry explaining what that means and why a settlement of former slaves might make that their creed.

-Was it ok for the preacher to take a “tithe” from Elijah? What does that tell you about this character?

-In chapter 6, Elijah talks about learning a lesson in school versus learning a lesson in real life. Write a response to Elijah’s comment on page 92: “But classroom learning just don’t work the same as when something happens to you personal.”

-Write a response to Mr. Leroy’s lesson on page 99: “‘You thinks just ‘cause that word come out from twixt your black lips it mean anything different? You think it ain’t choke up with the same kind of hate and disrespect it has when they say it? You caint see it be even worst when you call it out?’” Why do you think this word upset Mr. Leroy so? Use text evidence.

-Write a journal entry as if you were Ma when she was a little girl. Talk about how you felt when you mom threatened to kill you if you didn’t try and run away next time you were close to Canada. (Page 210)

-Write a journal entry as Elijah and talk about your experiences in America. How did you feel when you met Chloe? Why did you go back to the stable? What do you think will happen now that you have Hope?

*There are several vocabulary words you could have your child look up, define, and draw a picture for each.

*Take a paragraph and correct the grammar.
*The author himself has a list of activities in the back of the book you could look into as well.