Of their own accord, young people probably won’t pick Fight For Freedom by Stan Mack and Susan Champlin up unless already interested in the topic of the Civil War. Normally, this is a strike against a book. However, Fight For Freedom is an educational book and so it’s okay if young people discover it first through an adult. Once they do, they’ll find it an entertaining and informative read. The adults who point it out to them might enjoy it too!
First, there is the educational part. The text-based prologue sets the stage by stating, “Of all the issues that led to the Civil War, one overshadowed every other: slavery.” The authors proceed to explain how the Northern and Southern states differed from one another in the 1800’s, namely the South enacted legal acts which allowed slavery while abolitionists in the North responded with outrage. By 1862, a battle had erupted between the two sides, war was coming closer to Twin Oaks in Virginia, and…. Two pages later, the authors switch to a comic-based narrative about Sam and his family who are slaves to the Beauregard family. At the end of the story, there is also a text-based epilogue which distinguishes facts from fiction.
Second, there is entertaining part. There is humor, such as when Sam’s father tries to convince the slave-hunter that he helped the captured slave escape by cutting the rope with his “real sharp teeth”. There is action, such as when Sam runs away to Washington to earn freedom and find his father. Or when Sam tries to teach former slaves how to read Shakespeare and they help break up a fight. There is sadness, such as when Mr. Beauregard is captured during the war and leaves his wife and daughter to care for their home without his support. Most of all, there is bravery such as when Annabelle Beauregard stands up to robbers or when Sam partakes in the war effort even though this increases his risk of being captured again as a slave.
Some of the fictional elements were familiar to me from movies set in the Civil War era, such as the friendship between Sam and Annabelle or the numerous attempts by slaves to escape their plantation master. Others such as the fact that Abraham Lincoln loved Shakespeare, Clara Barton was the first nurse to serve on American battlefields, and that a real-life counterpart to Zeke (an African-American reporter) existed were new to me. Because war isn’t a topic that I typically read about, I probably wouldn’t have learned these facts except through a form like Fight for Freedom. That probably holds true for many of you too. How fun that we can learn facts like these in the palpable form of a graphic novel!
My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.
How would you rate it?