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Freedom by Catherine Johnson - Review

Thursday, August 2, 2018

I saw Cat tweet about how she has two books out this summer starring black male protagonists, and given the recent studies showing that black and minority ethnic authors and characters are disgustingly under represented in UK publishing, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and support a black author writing about black characters. So I ordered both of Cat's new books, the other is on pre-order but this arrived straight away

Set in 1783, it's about Nathaniel Barratt, who is a slave on a plantation in Jamaica. At the beginning of the book, his mother and sister have been sold and moved away from the plantation. Nathaniel dreams of freedom, dreams of buying the freedom of his mother and sister. At the plantation, he is under the whip of the young master Barratt, and his nasty mother.

Then Nathaniel is sent on a ship to England. His mother always told him that there was no slavery in England, so Nathaniel is hopeful for the future. On the ship, he meets Henry, the cabin boy, who tells him of a pub in London where Nathaniel might find him when he is free.

But upon arrival in England, Nathaniel discovers that he is not free at all. He also hears about a ship called the Zong, from which slaves were thrown and described as "cargo". He must fight for his own freedom in London.

The Zong massacre was a real thing that happened and which went part of the way towards the abolition of slavery. The end of the book has a historical note explaining the time period and a brief history of slavery, which I think is a great addition to a middle grade book like this, because it teaches kids a little bit about the truth behind what they've just read. Some of the characters in the book are real characters, which I really liked and thought was cleverly done too. I really liked Nat, I thought he was a very sympathetic character and a great hero for a book like this.

There is some description of violence, obviously, but I felt it was age appropriate for a ten/eleven year old. This is a good story and I am really glad I read it. Five out of five!


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