Little, Brown. Feb. 2022. 416p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316056618.
Gr 5-8–Sometimes, to be free, you have to make a life in a place where no one can find you. Freewater is such a place. With their mother leading the way, Homer and his younger sister Ada try to escape their hellish lives of slavery on the Southerland Plantation. But Homer remembers his promise of freedom to his friend Anna; his mother turns back for her but is caught. Homer and Ada run to nearby river and plunge into the raging waters that carry them into the Great Dismal Swamp. Lost and disoriented, they are rescued by Suleman, a mysterious and taciturn guide who leads them through the inhospitable swamp to Freewater, a settlement of escaped men, women, and children living in freedom. Slowly, Homer begins to appreciate living and working together to contribute to the thriving community. But what about his mama? Plagued by guilt about his mother’s capture, Homer decides to return to the plantation to rescue his mother and Anna. His new friends from Freewater pledge to return with him. Using a hand-drawn map that (unbelievably) survives multiple drenchings, Homer and company undertake the seemingly impossible rescue. Told from many alternating points of view, it is somewhat challenging to keep the characters straight at the outset. While using archeological evidence of settlements of formerly enslaved people within the Great Dismal Swamp as the basis for the text, the story itself is a speculative look into such a community.
VERDICT A fascinating look at a fictional Black resistance settlement in a little-known place.

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