When We Wake by Karen Healey

When We WakeWhen We WakeWhen We Wake by Karen Healey by Karen Healey

Somewhat intriguing story but at times it felt more like a lecture than a novel. I’m not a huge dystopian fan, and this title is a little too dystopian-esque for me. Future society, the world is in peril, teen girl who just wants to live a normal life but has to save the world from some evil adults, etc. etc. The book is littered with cliches and cardboard characters, and despite the cliffhanger ending to tempt you into grabbing the sequel, While We RunWhile We Run by Karen Healey, I’m not inspired to read more.

After I draft a review, I often then go and read other reviews of a book, mostly for curiosity’s sake (do others agree with my take on the book?). I always feel a little bit of “yes! It wasn’t just me!” when something that’s bugged me about a book turns up frequently in other reviews. In this case, what I referred to as a “lecture” others rightly noted is a preachy take on politics and religion. It didn’t bother me as much as it did some others, but it was annoyingly heavy-handed, even when I was agreeing with her about parts of it.

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Publisher’s Description:
My name is Tegan Oglietti, and on the last day of my first lifetime, I was so, so happy.

Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027–she’s happiest when playing the guitar, she’s falling in love for the first time, and she’s joining her friends to protest the wrongs of the world: environmental collapse, social discrimination, and political injustice.

But on what should have been the best day of Tegan’s life, she dies–and wakes up a hundred years in the future, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened.

Tegan is the first government guinea pig to be cryonically frozen and successfully revived, which makes her an instant celebrity–even though all she wants to do is try to rebuild some semblance of a normal life. But the future isn’t all she hoped it would be, and when appalling secrets come to light, Tegan must make a choice: Does she keep her head down and survive, or fight for a better future?

Award-winning author Karen Healey has created a haunting, cautionary tale of an inspiring protagonist living in a not-so-distant future that could easily be our own.

Book Details

Title: When We WakeWhen We Wake by Karen Healey
Author: Karen Healey
Category: Young Adult Science Fiction
My Rating: 2.5 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Book Review: I Need Some Help Here by Kathi Lipp
Two years ago: A Change of Plans, and Some News

From Stray Dog to World War I Hero

From Stray Dog to World War I HeroFrom Stray Dog to World War I Hero: The Paris Terrier Who Joined the First DivisionFrom Stray Dog to World War I Hero: The Paris Terrier Who Joined the First Division by Grant Hayter-Menzies by Grant Hayter-Menzies

I’m a dog lover, but don’t usually like dog stories. So often they seem to be written just to elicit tears, and that’s not the sort of book I want. Bring in some history with the story though, and you’ve got my interest. So the description of this one sounded like a great choice for me: a little-known story from World War I, about a dog who was a hero for the US.

Except, while I *wanted* to love the story, and while I can appreciate what Rags did from an intellectual standpoint, the book itself left me unaffected. It would have benefited from the emotions those other dog stories bring to their books.

Other reviews all seem to mention the beautiful writing, but clearly I’m still a cranky reader, because I found it to be serviceable writing, but nothing deserving special mention.

Overall, I found myself wishing that a picture book author would discover Rags’ story and turn it into a beautiful children’s book. The known facts of the story are thin enough that it simply doesn’t support a full book like this, but it could work really well as a children’s book, or in a compilation like the National Geographic Kids Animal StoriesNational Geographic Kids Animal Stories: Heartwarming True Tales from the Animal Kingdom book I love so much.

If you’re a dog lover and history buff, you may still enjoy this, but I wouldn’t make much effort to track it down if your library doesn’t already have a copy. It’s fine, but not worth searching out or buying for yourself.

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Publisher’s Description:
On the streets of Paris one day in July 1918, an American doughboy, Sgt. Jimmy Donovan, befriended a stray dog that he named Rags. No longer an unwanted street mutt, Rags became the mascot to the entire First Division of the American Expeditionary Force and a friend to the American troops who had crossed the Atlantic to fight. Rags was more than a scruffy face and a wagging tail, however. The little terrier mix was with the division at the crucial battle of Soissons, at the Saint-Mihiel offensive, and finally in the blood-and-mud bath of the Meuse-Argonne, during which he and his guardian were wounded. Despite being surrounded by distraction and danger, Rags learned to carry messages through gunfire, locate broken communications wire for the Signal Corps to repair, and alert soldiers to incoming shells, saving the lives of hundreds of American soldiers. Through it all, he brought inspiration to men with little to hope for, especially in the bitter last days of the war.

From Stray Dog to World War I Hero covers Rags’s entire life story, from the bomb-filled years of war through his secret journey to the United States that began his second life, one just as filled with drama and heartache. In years of peace, Rags served as a reminder to human survivors of what held men together when pushed past their limits by the horrors of battle.

Book Details

Title: From Stray Dog to World War I Hero: The Paris Terrier Who Joined the First DivisionFrom Stray Dog to World War I Hero: The Paris Terrier Who Joined the First Division by Grant Hayter-Menzies
Author: Grant Hayter-Menzies
Category: Nonfiction / History
My Rating: 2.5 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Reading After Having Children

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

Mr. Churchill's SecretaryMr. Churchill’s Secretary: A Maggie Hope MysteryMr. Churchill's Secretary: A Maggie Hope Mystery by Susan Elia MacNeal by Susan Elia MacNeal

A great cover, appealing setting, and promising start gave me high hopes for this mystery series debut. Unfortunately the book felt super contrived and never managed to make me feel like it really was taking place during World War II – it was so obviously written recently, and placed into that setting. The characterizations are poor and the plotting is weak.

That said, it was a really quick read and I enjoyed the pacing. I also really *wanted* to like it, and the main character, so much so that I’m hoping the issues I had with the book were all related to it being the author’s first, and that she’ll improve with more practice. I love the covers and the premise behind the series so much I’m giving her another shot with book two, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy.

So, should you read it? Until I have a chance to see how book # 2 is, I’d say if you haven’t already read the Maisie Dobbs series, I’d highly recommend them instead. The time period isn’t exactly the same, but it’s a stronger series. If you want the same sort of light-and-breezy feel this one offers, look at the Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn, beginning with Death at Wentwater Court.

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Publisher’s Description:
For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King, and Anne Perry, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary captures the drama of an era of unprecedented challenge—and the greatness that rose to meet it.

London, 1940. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. She graduated at the top of her college class and possesses all the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gifts for codebreaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never have imagined—and opportunities she will not let pass. In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Rooms also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history.

Ensnared in a web of spies, murder, and intrigue, Maggie must work quickly to balance her duty to King and Country with her chances for survival. And when she unravels a mystery that points toward her own family’s hidden secrets, she’ll discover that her quick wits are all that stand between an assassin’s murderous plan and Churchill himself.

In this daring debut, Susan Elia MacNeal blends meticulous research on the era, psychological insight into Winston Churchill, and the creation of a riveting main character, Maggie Hope, into a spectacularly crafted novel.

Book Details

Title: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary: A Maggie Hope MysteryMr. Churchill's Secretary: A Maggie Hope Mystery by Susan Elia MacNeal
Author: Susan Elia MacNeal
Category: Fiction / Historical Mystery
My Rating: 3 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Book Review: Real Learning by Elizabeth Foss
Two years ago: Update on Books I Was Looking Forward to Reading in 2013

The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin

The Port Chicago 50The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil RightsThe Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin by Steve Sheinkin

Juvenile nonfiction is tough: I often find myself wanting more depth, and so perhaps giving lower ratings than is fair because a book skims the surface (as may be appropriate for the target audience).

I think this is probably one of those times – I’m not super enthusiastic about this book, mostly because I wanted *more* from it. It felt superficial, and like it’s the skeleton of an AMAZING book.

So, if you like juvenile nonfiction, or are looking for something to round out history for your children, this may be a great choice. It touches on World War II, military history, African American history, segregation (both in the military and in the US in general), civil rights, and life on the homefront. I’m fairly well-read in World War II history, but had never heard of this incident, and found myself getting enraged at the offensively bad treatment these sailors received.

Recommended, with the caveat that there isn’t much depth to it all and it left me wanting more. If you don’t mind it being aimed at middle grade readers, then it is interesting, if infuriating. And if the topic sounds appealing but you don’t want a juvenile title, there is Robert Allen’s The Port Chicago MutinyThe Port Chicago Mutiny by Robert Allen. I haven’t read it but am thinking about it, on the assumption that it will give me the depth I was missing in Sheinkin’s book.

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Publisher’s Description:
An astonishing civil rights story from Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist Steve Sheinkin.

On July 17, 1944, a massive explosion rocked the segregated Navy base at Port Chicago, California, killing more than 300 sailors who were at the docks, critically injuring off-duty men in their bunks, and shattering windows up to a mile away. On August 9th, 244 men refused to go back to work until unsafe and unfair conditions at the docks were addressed. When the dust settled, fifty were charged with mutiny, facing decades in jail and even execution. This is a fascinating story of the prejudice that faced black men and women in America’s armed forces during World War II, and a nuanced look at those who gave their lives in service of a country where they lacked the most basic rights.

Book Details

Title: The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil RightsThe Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin
Author: Steve Sheinkin
Category: Juvenile Nonfiction / History
My Rating: 3 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Cover Love: Parnassus on Wheels

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

SeabiscuitSeabiscuit: An American LegendSeabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand by Laura Hillenbrand

The Expectations

Perhaps taking the award for the most-anticipated, but took-me-the-longest-to-get-through book of the decade.

I’d been saving Seabiscuit for a time when I wanted a guaranteed winner. It’s gotten such amazing reviews, and I loved Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, so of course I’m going to love this, right?

The Reality

It was a book club pick last year, but I ended up having to miss the meeting, so didn’t have that time pressure to get the book finished. And when I finally started reading it I discovered that my high expecations were not going to be reached.

It’s not that it’s a bad book. It has moments where it’s a fantastic book. But they’re interspersed with lots and lots of tedious detail about the specifics of so. many. races.

Can you tell I have no real interest in horse racing?

The Verdict

I loved the parts about the people involved. I loved the strategy behind some of the training methods. I did not love reading about the races themselves, but once I realized that I didn’t have to read every last word about the races, I enjoyed the book a lot more. Yes, I skimmed the race descriptions, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

It’s a hard one to rate. The parts I liked were a solid 4, but the parts I didn’t were a 2 at best. I ended up going with a 3 figuring that balanced it out, but be warned that I thought it was an inconsistent one.

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Publisher’s Description:
Seabiscuit was one of the most electrifying and popular attractions in sports history and the single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938, receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. But his success was a surprise to the racing establishment, which had written off the crooked-legged racehorse with the sad tail. Three men changed Seabiscuit’s fortunes:

Charles Howard was a onetime bicycle repairman who introduced the automobile to the western United States and became an overnight millionaire. When he needed a trainer for his new racehorses, he hired Tom Smith, a mysterious mustang breaker from the Colorado plains. Smith urged Howard to buy Seabiscuit for a bargain-basement price, then hired as his jockey Red Pollard, a failed boxer who was blind in one eye, half-crippled, and prone to quoting passages from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Over four years, these unlikely partners survived a phenomenal run of bad fortune, conspiracy, and severe injury to transform Seabiscuit from a neurotic, pathologically indolent also-ran into an American sports icon.

Author Laura Hillenbrand brilliantly re-creates a universal underdog story, one that proves life is a horse race.

Book Details

Title: Seabiscuit: An American LegendSeabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Category: Nonfiction / History
My Rating: 3 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: January 2015 Recap

The Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill by Andrea Warren

The Boy Who Became Buffalo BillThe Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill: Growing Up Billy Cody in Bleeding KansasThe Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill: Growing Up Billy Cody in Bleeding Kansas by Andrea Warren by Andrea Warren

An excellent biography for children and younger teens. It doesn’t have the depth I’d want to recommend it as a full biography for adults, but for the target audience it’s well-written and engaging. Warren does an impressive job of sifting through the embellishments of Cody’s life, and of detailing some of the tragedies of his childhood in a way that still keeps it readable by younger children.

I especially enjoyed it because of having recently read Eiffel’s Tower, which included a little bit about Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show as it appeared at the Paris World’s Fair. After reading in that book about what a showman he was, and how much his shows delighted Paris (and much of the rest of Europe, before and after the World’s Fair), it was enlightening to read about how he became that man.

While I don’t think it’s a must-read as an adult, it was still one that adults can appreciate. I’d be careful before handing it over to younger elementary students but upper elementary and older should be fine with it (although, as always, know your readers and their sensitivity levels. There are some harsh moments in the book.)

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Publisher’s Description:
The greatest entertainer of his era, Buffalo Bill was the founder and star of the legendary show that featured cowboys, Indians, trick riding, and sharpshooters.

But long before stardom, Buffalo Bill—born Billy Cody—had to grow up fast. While homesteading in Kansas just before the Civil War, his family was caught up in the conflict with neighboring Missouri over whether Kansas would enter the Union as a free or slave state.

To support his family after a pro-slaver killed his father, Billy—then eleven—herded cattle, worked on wagon trains, and rode the Pony Express. As the violence in Bleeding Kansas escalated, he joined the infamous Jayhawkers, seeking revenge on Missouri­ans, and then became a soldier, scout, and spy in the Civil War—all by age seventeen.

Award-winning author Andrea Warren brings to life the compelling childhood of an adventurous, determined boy who transformed himself into a true American icon.

Book Details

Title: The Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill: Growing Up Billy Cody in Bleeding KansasThe Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill: Growing Up Billy Cody in Bleeding Kansas by Andrea Warren
Author: Andrea Warren
Category: Juvenile Nonfiction / Biography
My Rating: 4 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Books Read in 2014 – the Compiled List

The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Lake HouseThe Lake House: A NovelThe Lake House: A Novel by Kate Morton by Kate Morton

It’s so hard to write about this book without giving spoilers, so this will be very superficial. I loved this book. It’s not one I’d normally read – the kidnapped or missing child is one of my “do not read” triggers – but I trusted Morton (plus it was a book club book), and I am so glad I pushed past my initial hesitation.

As is Morton’s trait, it’s another alternating timeline book, and you get the story from multiple perspectives – including a brief view from the missing baby.

There are layers of mysteries here, and my one real complaint might be that it’s perhaps a bit too tidy in how everything is resolved. It does make it satisfying in many ways as a reader – there were only two real questions I had after finishing the book – but part of me thinks it gets to be a little too ridiculous having so much wrap up in the final chapters. And precisely HOW some of it gets resolved also gets a big “Really?” from me. No specifics because that would be a great big spoiler.

No matter, it was still a compelling read, and a great start to the book club year. It’s one that I highly recommended as a book club book – it provides a lot to discuss.

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Publisher’s Description:
Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.

Book Details

Title: The Lake House: A NovelThe Lake House: A Novel by Kate Morton
Author: Kate Morton
Category: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: How to Blog for Profit without Selling Your Soul
Two years ago: Books Read in 2013

Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

Out of SortsOut of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving FaithOut of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey by Sarah Bessey

Bessey’s first book, Jesus Feminist, was one of my most disappointing reads last year. It wasn’t the book I expected it to be, and that aggravation and disappointment made me unable to fully appreciate the book that it was.

Bessey’s new book, Out of Sorts, had no such issues for me. I expected it to be a faith memoir, and that’s precisely what it is. This time I enjoyed the personal angle she brought to the discussion of faith and religion.

If you liked Jesus Feminist, you’re almost certain to enjoy this one. And even if you didn’t care for Jesus Feminist, Out of Sorts is a stronger, more cohesive account, that takes her story, and makes more universal.

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Publisher’s Description:
In Out of Sorts, Sarah Bessey—award-winning blogger and author of Jesus Feminist, which was hailed as “lucid, compelling, and beautifully written” (Frank Viola, author of God’s Favorite Place on Earth)—helps us grapple with core Christian issues using a mixture of beautiful storytelling and biblical teaching, a style well described as “narrative theology.”

As she candidly shares her wrestlings with core issues—such as who Jesus is, what place the Church has in our lives, how to disagree yet remain within a community, and how to love the Bible for what it is rather than what we want it to be—she teaches us how to walk courageously through our own tough questions.

In the process of gently helping us sort things out, Bessey teaches us how to be as comfortable with uncertainty as we are with solid answers. And as we learn to hold questions in one hand and answers in the other, we discover new depths of faith that will remain secure even through the storms of life.

Book Details

Title: Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving FaithOut of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey
Author: Sarah Bessey
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir / Faith
My Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for review. I was not required to post a positive review, and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Cooking the Book: Good Cheap Eats by Jessica Fisher

Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger

Manners and MutinyManners & MutinyManners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4) by Gail Carriger by Gail Carriger

My least favorite of what had been a delightfully entertaining series. Some of that is surely just because my hopes were so high, both because I have so enjoyed the previous books in the series, and because I’d just finished Winter (and LOVED IT), so I was all excited: YES! Series endings can be amazing!

And this one … wasn’t.

It wasn’t terrible by any means, and if you’ve read the earlier books I can’t imagine that you won’t want to read this as well. And perhaps if you’ve got tempered expectations you’ll be pleased enough with this.

As it was it was somewhat disappointing. I do still adore the beginning of the series, and I did like finding out certain things about some characters (being intentionally vague here), but the wrap-up at the end seemed to leave some others out. Perhaps they make appearances in the other series she wrote?

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Publisher’s Description:
If one must flirt…flirt with danger.

Lessons in the art of espionage aboard Mademoiselle Geraldine’s floating dirigible have become tedious without Sophronia’s sweet sootie Soap nearby. She would much rather be using her skills to thwart the dastardly Picklemen, yet her concerns about their wicked intentions are ignored, and now she’s not sure whom to trust. What does the brusque werewolf dewan know? On whose side is the ever-stylish vampire Lord Akeldama? Only one thing is certain: a large-scale plot is under way, and when it comes to fruition, Sophronia must be ready to save her friends, her school, and all of London from disaster–in decidedly dramatic fashion, of course.

What will become of our proper young heroine when she puts her years of training to the test? Find out in this highly anticipated and thrilling conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Finishing School series!

Book Details

Title: Manners & MutinyManners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4) by Gail Carriger
Author: Gail Carriger
Category: Fiction / Fanstasy (Steampunk)
My Rating: 3 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Two years ago: Biggest Disappointments of 2013
Three years ago: Book Review: Cheaper By the Dozen

Passenger on the Pearl by Winifred Conkling

Passenger on the PearlPassenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson’s Flight from SlaveryPassenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson's Flight from Slavery by Winifred Conkling by Winifred Conkling

An extremely overdue review, but don’t take that as a reflection on my feelings towards the book.

This is an excellent resource for students wanting a look at slavery in the US, and how it impacted an individual family.

Despite touching on horrific aspects of American history, the way the story is told makes it readable by younger children – I would probably not hesitate to use it for middle grade or even upper elementary readers. Know your reader of course, but I would think if you’re willing to let your child read about slavery in general, nothing in this story should be a problem. One possible exception/caution is because of some references to the threat of sexual slavery and abuse Emily and her sister faced. Nothing is graphical described, and oblivious readers may not even catch it, but be aware it’s in there.

The straightforward writing style, while having the advantage of keeping it from being too graphic for more sensitive or younger readers, does end up making it a drier read. It’s an incredible story, with connections to significant events in American history, but the writing makes it not as compelling to keep reading.

It’s a very educational read, and one of the strongest points of the book is in the resource list – it ends up working well as a starting point, to then find more information about particular aspects of slavery in the US. Emily’s story is fascinating, and I appreciated the follow-up provided on her family (when it was available).

Recommended for children or younger teens looking for material on the topic. It doesn’t have enough depth to be one I’d recommend for older teens or adults, but for the target audience it’s a worthwhile resource.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
The page-turning, heart-wrenching true story of one young woman willing to risk her safety and even her life for a chance at freedom in the largest slave escape attempt in American history.

In 1848, thirteen-year-old Emily Edmonson, five of her siblings, and seventy other enslaved people boarded the Pearl under cover of night in Washington, D.C., hoping to sail north to freedom. Within a day, the schooner was captured, and the Edmonsons were sent to New Orleans to be sold into even crueler conditions. Through Emily Edmonson’s journey from enslaved person to teacher at a school for African American young women, Conkling illuminates the daily lives of enslaved people, the often changing laws affecting them, and the high cost of a failed escape.

Book Details

Title: Passenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson’s Flight from SlaveryPassenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson's Flight from Slavery by Winifred Conkling
Author: Winifred Conkling
Category: Juvenile Nonfiction
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from NetGalley, but I actually read it as a library book (the advanced copy I received wasn’t cooperating with my ereader). I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: New on My Bookcase (vol. 27)