By Author / Illustrator
Representation & Inclusion
Paperback / softback
Winner of the Little Rebels Children's Book Award 2019! An action-packed and pacey story about a boy's experience of slavery in Britain. Nathaniel doesn't want to move to England with his master's family, leaving behind his mother and sister on the Jamaican plantation. But then he remembers what his mother told him: once a slave sets foot on English soil, they're free. Perhaps he can earn his fortune and buy his family's freedom, too.
Freedom isn't a long novel but it crams in so much emotional satisfaction, excitement, and adventure! It also weaves the story around real historical events in a way that feels beautifully natural.
The appalling fate of slaves on the slave ship Zong and the insurance fraud trial that followed it is absorbed - and explained in enough detail to make it accessible to primary school children - but doesn't overpower the engaging first person narrative of Nathaniel Barrett, a young West Indian plantation slave.
Nat finds himself on a trip to England with his mistress and young master, charged with looking after the exotic pineapple plants they want as a present for a duke. Encouraged by gossip that everyone in England is free, he dreams that, once there, he will be able to escape from the vicious humiliations of slavery, make his fortune and return to rescue his mother and sister. When he arrives, however, he realises he's no more free than in Jamaica, just colder. He decides to run. Any more would be a spoiler but the characterisation of Nat drives the plot. He's courageous and resilient and has a capacity for friendship that provides his one advantage against his owners.
I adored this book. It would work equally brilliantly as read aloud or a class novel for Year 5 or 6. It's an ideal way to make sure our children know about the shameful history of slavery that still casts its shadow across England; it's impossible to sugar coat the history of the slave ship Zong. But the central message of the importance of our shared humanity builds empathy and gives the reader hope. The storytelling is superb. If it's not in your school library already, buy it now!
160 pages / Reviewed by Louisa Farrow, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 9+