Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson. October 4, 2016. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9781416961468. Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.4; Lexile: 820.
Return to the American Revolution in this blistering conclusion to the trilogy that began with the bestselling National Book Award Finalist Chains and continued with Forge, which The New York Times called “a return not only to the colonial era but to historical accuracy.”
As the Revolutionary War rages on, Isabel and Curzon have narrowly escaped Valley Forge—but their relief is short-lived. Before long they are reported as runaways, and the awful Bellingham is determined to track them down. With purpose and faith, Isabel and Curzon march on, fiercely determined to find Isabel’s little sister Ruth, who is enslaved in a Southern state—where bounty hunters are thick as flies.
Heroism and heartbreak pave their path, but Isabel and Curzon won’t stop until they reach Ruth, and then freedom, in this grand finale to the acclaimed Seeds of America trilogy from Laurie Halse Anderson.
Part of Series: The Seeds of America trilogy (book 3)
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns; War; Harsh realities of slavery
Booklist starred (July 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 21))
Grades 7-10. Co-protagonists Isabel and Curzon (Chains, 2008, and Forge, 2010) return in this long-awaited third and final volume in Anderson’s award-winning Seeds of America trilogy. The year is now 1781, and the two teenage fugitives are 12 miles from Charleston, South Carolina, in search of Isabel’s younger sister, Ruth, stolen away from her many years before. To Isabel’s great joy, find her they do, but, inexplicably, Ruth refuses to return Isabel’s affection, remaining cold and distant, even when the three, along with farm-boy Aberdeen, set off to walk to Rhode Island and freedom. Will they reach their destination? Perhaps, but in the meantime, they arrive in Williamsburg, Virginia, where, to Isabel’s great distress, Curzon reenlists in the Continental Army. The action then moves to the siege of Yorktown, even as Isabel and Curzon’s often stormy relationship continues to evolve. But to what end? The plot-rich text makes for compelling reading, and the well-developed characters continue to invite reader empathy. Anderson demonstrates a particular talent for verisimilitude, bringing history to compelling life while she continues to develop her theme of the quest for liberty and the cruel irony that, during a war for freedom, there should remain slavery. Yes, readers, it was worth the wait. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Chains and Forge are considered highlights of an author career packed with highlights, and this final installment comes with a book tour, floor displays, and more.
Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2016)
It’s been five long years since Isabel’s younger sister, Ruth, was stolen away by hated slave owner Madam Lockton (Chains, rev. 11/08), but as Isabel continues her fraught journey south in June 1781 with her companion, Curzon, she remains as determined as ever to find and rescue her sister. On a semi-abandoned South Carolina plantation, they do find Ruth, but she has made a home there and is aloof and even hostile to Isabel. This attitude, coupled with Ruth’s slight mental impairment, makes their continuing escape (as Isabel, Curzon, and Ruth flee the plantation when the white overseer returns) even more perilous. Heading north, they are inexorably drawn toward Yorktown, setting of the climactic battle of the American Revolution. Anderson takes full advantage of unfolding history to weave a plethora of historical detail into the narrative, while her characters confront the relative merits of the American and British positions in relation to the status of African Americans. Isabel comes to realize that “freedom would not be handed to us like a gift. Freedom had to be fought for and taken.” By questioning the fundamental principles upon which this nation was founded, the Seeds of America trilogy does for middle grade readers what M. T. Anderson’s Octavian Nothing books (rev. 9/06 and 9/08) do for young adult readers. And amidst the moral quagmire of colonial-American racial politics, Isabel and Curzon resolve the romantic tension that has simmered throughout the series and forge a hopeful, clear-eyed vision of their shared future.
About the Author
Laurie Halse Anderson is the New York Times-bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous ALA and state awards. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists.
Mother of four and wife of one, Laurie lives outside Philadelphia. Her website is http://madwomanintheforest.com/
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African Americans in the Revolutionary War Lesson Plan
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