Oh, Freedom! by Francesco D'Adamo

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Oh, Freedom! by Francesco D'Adamo

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Tony Taylor
Reviewed by Tony Taylor
Summary: A fascinating and atmospheric story of the secret Underground Railroad in 1850's America. The book is a captivating portrayal of slaves, who risked everything in search of freedom. Effortlessly descriptive; so vivid and visual it reads like a movie.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 138 Date: June 2016
Publisher: Darf Publishing
ISBN: 978-1850772859

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I don't want my children to grow up as slaves…

Oh, Freedom!, set in 1850 Alabama, follows the journey of a black cotton-picking family as they attempt a perilous journey to Canada in search of freedom. Before their escape, they simply existed as slaves living on a plantation under the ownership of the infamous Captain Archer - a white man who, to their eyes, owned the world. The family knew nothing else of the world except toiling the land under the watchful master's gaze and whip from dusk till dawn. One early evening in May 1850, the family are visited by a mysterious stranger known only as Peg Leg Joe who carried a large bottle of beer, a banjo and a promise of freedom. He becomes the family's guide to lead them from the plantation along the Underground Railroad; in search of Canada for a life they have barely dared to dream of. The family knew of only one thing: the journey would be fraught with danger which Francesco D'Adamo captures brilliantly with his atmospheric writing style.

Oh, Freedom! is a fictional historical recount of the journey which thousands of slaves in America took between 1800 and 1860. It's reported that as many as 100,000 slaves escaped on the Underground Railroad during this time. Along the route, numerous stations were set up where the slaves could receive clothes, food, and shelter or where land owners would simply turn a blind-eye. Songs were passed down which acted as secret maps by using the stars as directions. Although this is a work of fiction, Peg Leg Joe is based upon a real person or perhaps a collection of people. No firm evidence exists but tales tell of a sailor who visited plantations, taught the slaves his songs and they would disappear overnight.

I particularly enjoyed the author's descriptive writing of the setting and conditions which the slaves encountered. He carefully uses the weather to enhance the feeling and sense of hope and dread of the characters. Right from the start D'Adamo writes: Behind him, threatening black clouds raced rapidly over the plain, unleashing thunder, flashes of lightening and thunderbolts. This style is consistent throughout and I could see, hear and feel what Tommy would. I especially enjoyed this descriptive writing approach. Personally, I feel the story lacked some excitement and sense of suspense. This is not to be negative about the story as I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Oh, Freedom! is a short story which I believe is a great length for a children's book, at 138 pages. It is incredibly accessible which will provide children with a historical understanding in a fictional narrative of an era of which many will have no prior knowledge. As a Year 6 Primary School teacher, my class would read this confidently and they would gain a fantastic insight into 1850's America. Additionally, the themes in Oh, Freedom! can be compared with the refugee crisis in Syria today, where people are fleeing their homes in hope of freedom and a better life.

For further reading, I would suggest Midnight Fox by Besty Byers (however this has not been reviewed here at Bookbag) as this has a similar atmospheric style of writing with slightly less action and excitement. Additionally I recommend the brilliant The Arrival by Shaun Tan as this purely picture book portrays the notion of leaving all you know in search of a new life.

Buy Oh, Freedom! by Francesco D'Adamo at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Oh, Freedom! by Francesco D'Adamo at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Oh, Freedom! by Francesco D'Adamo at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Oh, Freedom! by Francesco D'Adamo at Amazon.com.


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