Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story by Janet Halfmann

**Young Readers Challenge**
Have you ever heard of Robert Smalls? Prior to reading this nonfiction children's picture book, I had not. However, after reading, I have to wonder why. Smalls was a man of such bravery and courage. A man that made his mark in our history. A man that was born a slave, saw and experienced the injustices brought upon his race, and not only sailed himself and his family to safety and freedom, but his entire crew as well.

Seven Miles to Freedom is the perfect book to discuss history and to honor the many that have sacrificed their lives for the cause of equality. It is a book that is particularly of importance and relevance this month, Black History Month.

In addition to the "big picture" topics, details arise from this book that create even further conversations with your child(ren). I have included a couple of examples below:
  • When Elizabeth was born (Robert and Hannah's first-born child), she was considered to be the property of Hannah's master. During that time in our history, African-American children technically did not belong to their parents. There were not even really considered to be individuals themselves; merely a piece of property, just like a home, a piece of land, or even something as simple as a pair of shoes. What do you think that would have been like? Do you feel like you are a piece of property? (Additional history can also be outlined here in regards to additional children's rights in the 1900's.)
  • As a slave, Smalls was required to fight for a cause he did not believe in . . . slavery and the superiority of one race. He made the choice to change this and fight for the cause that he did believe in . . . equality and justice for ALL. How do you think this affects you today? What is important to you when making your personal choices?

Obviously, this book and my personal questions above are targeted for an older crowd. The recommended age group is actually 6-11 years. Some questions and additional discussion topics I've addressed may be for the later recommended years.

Overall, Halfmann has brought us another great educational book! Small's story is an amazing and inspiring one. It is stories, real-life documentaries, just like this one that can help us all to better understand the struggles and the sacrifices that have been made, and ultimately, will help us to be able to truly recognize the greatness of ALL individuals, despite the differences that may exist. Afterall, President Barack Obama stated it beautifully in his inauguration address, "Our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness."

For additional information on this book and other titles focusing on diversity, please visit Lee & Low Books.

Review copy provided by author


  1. Tif, thank you so much for your wonderful review of Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story and for your suggestions about conversations about slavery and equality to have with children. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to tell this amazing man's story!

  2. And, I truly appreciate you sharing it!!

  3. Tif, this would have worked perfectly for our studies the last 6 weeks! We were studying slavery and the Civil War. I requested it through MEL since I don't think it is at our libraries. I'm looking forward to reading it!

    If you know of any kids books that would be good for the study of the 1900's (immigration, inventions, Thomas Edison, Wright Brothers, suffragist movement) let me know!

  4. Crystal, I am so glad to hear that you have found another good book for you and your girls through my site! I cannot think of any particular books at the moment about the 1900's, but will definitely do some thinking and let you know! I'm thinking that there is at least one on the tip of my tongue, but I just need to remember the title!!


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