Freedom

Issue section: 
(441)

Nathaniel lives in Jamaica and doesn’t want to move to England with his master’s family, leaving his mother and sister behind on the Jamaican plantation.

But his mother has told him: “once a slave sets foot on English soil, they’re free”. Perhaps he can earn his fortune and buy his family’s freedom, too. What would Nathaniel learn from this journey and living in England?

Nathaniel is brought over with the sole purpose of looking after pineapples. It’s his belief that England is a place of freedom but this is soon destroyed. He thinks of a plan to escape in order to feel real freedom, and along the way he meets characters who would go down in history as the slave trade edges towards abolition.

The book’s ending is brilliant: a mix of hope, determination and a great attitude toward life.

Johnson details the treatment of slaves in a way that allows children to begin to appreciate the seriousness and cruelty of it. It’s an exciting and moving story, even though at the heart of the book is a horrible truth.

A short story (only 138 pages) offering a fascinating, albeit depressing, insight into the lives of slaves in Britain at the end of the 18th century.

An outstanding, age appropriate (around 10 years plus) story of slavery from a very accomplished writer. Short and easy to read, full of action and lively characters. Johnson has written a well-balanced story of a heart-breaking and traumatic life and has filled it with scenes of friendship, kindness, warmth and laughter.

Freedom is ultimately a hope-filled tale set in a world on the verge of abolishing the slave trade.

Real historical characters and events are laced into the story, including Olaudah Equiano, Granville Sharp, and the story of the slave ship The Zong. Also at the end of the book there are some brief historical notes which would make an excellent and helpful starting point for more research.

Freedom is perfect for parents and schools ready to introduce the topic of slavery and the slave trade to students and young people, and is also an important story sure to move and inform readers of any age. I highly recommend it.