The Escape of Robert Smalls: A Daring Voyage Out of Slavery

Capstone. Sept. 2019. 40p. bibliog. glossary. notes. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781543512816.
PreS-Gr 2–In 1862, an enslaved man named Robert Smalls led a crew of other enslaved persons and their families on a daring escape by piloting a steamship through Confederate territory and into safe waters controlled by the Union Navy. This picture book covers the background of how Smalls began working at docks and on steamships, but focuses mainly on the night of the escape. The heart of the story spotlights the bravery and resourcefulness of Smalls as he plots and carries out his plan. The afterword includes a photo of Smalls, more information about his life, slavery, and the Civil War. There is also a glossary and suggested “read more” list. The illustrations are well done, often using darker colors to represent the night time and gravity of the voyage. None of the harshest parts of slavery are examined too closely, which is unsurprising in a book for young children, but the consequences for attempting such a risky escape is made very clear.
VERDICT A good purchase for public and elementary school libraries wanting to expand a nonfiction collection on slavery and the Civil War. This book will work well for one-on-one sessions with younger readers and in groups of older children.

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