Sunday, January 29, 2017

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan by Ashley Bryan

This captures African culture and universal human desires juxtaposed with slavery. I'm living in South Africa. Last weekend we went to Soweto to see Nelson Mandela's house. A young man wanting money walked us across the street pounding on his chest creating a drumbeat and singing a Soweto welcome song trying to earn some money. The song was fun, joyful, and uplifting. Music is an integral part of this culture. Students break into spontaneous song and dance and any student-centered event includes open mic. A day later I read in this book, "Drums were forbidden./Owners feared that messages could be carried by drum./We used our bodies /to beat out rhythms/Clapping hands, slapping sides/stamping feet." Through free verse Ashley Bryan describes how slaves used talents such as music to ease burdens and help with survival.

Bryan is now 93 and still cranking out books and artwork. This tale captures an indefatigable spirit and vibrant culture in an oppressive time as it shows 11 slaves being sold on the Fairfield estate. His illustrations show the face of each slave and the money they are being sold for at an auction. Each slave has unique skills that give them pride and they find freedom in performing each day. The first page explains their skills and situation while the following page has the slave's dreams that contain their given name from Africa and his or her desire for a better future. Slavery was meant to strip blacks of their dignity and demoralize them. The section of each slave's dreams shows their humanity and universal desires that all people have regardless of race.

The free verse repeats the words, freedom, dreams, and memorable phrases such as "My knowledge makes me/ hunger for more" and "Learning how to work/ with measurements and tools/ gives me an inner strength." This would be good for class discussions grades 3-5. You could just read part of it if the students get twitchy. The illustrations remind me of woodcuts and some are very detailed while others are not. I read this as an ebook and the format was fine. I can see why it has won three awards.

5 Smileys

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