Friday, August 30, 2013

The Price of Freedom: how one town stood up to slavery by Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

 In 1856, freedom was just across the river in Ohio for Kentucky slaves Dinah, John and Frank.   One frigid cold night, the three took horses from their master's barn and rode across the frozen river.  On the other side, they met an elderly Quaker who sheltered the frozen runaways.  After for two weeks.  Dinah went her own way and John and Frank headed north together.

The two men had to keep going, hoping to reach Canada before they were caught because Congress had just passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which meant that a slave owner could capture a runaway slave anywhere in the US and made aiding a runaway slave was a federal crime.

Along their route, Frank and John had help from the various Underground Railroad "station" they came to.  They had almost reached Canada when they decided to spend the rest of the winter in Oberlin, Ohio.  There they took odd jobs and they like Oberlin so much, they decided to stay longer.

Until 1858, when several slave hunters showed up looking for the two runaways.  Frank and John were worth $500 each to their leader, Kentuckian Anderson Jennings.  But the town of Oberlin wasn't going to let this happen without a showdown...

In the end, neither John nor Frank or even Dinah were returned to Kentucky.  But 37 townsmen were charged with violating the Fugitive Slave Act and sentenced to three months in prison...three months that only strengthened their resolve to aid runaway slaves in what ever way they could.

The Price of Freedom is a true story and another of those picture books for older readers that bring aspects of American history to life in such an effective way.  The text is simple, straightforward and factual but without being patronizing and coupled with realistic illustrations that compliment and extend the text even further.  Artist Eric Velasquez has expertly rendered the illustrations using mixed-media and oil paint, in dark hues that reflect the dramatic times depicted in the text.

The 37 Men of Oberlin, Ohio
There is a old photograph of the 37 men who went to prison at the end of the book giving absolute credibility to the story of what happened in the town of Oberlin, Ohio.  In the back matter, Fradin and Fradin have also included brief description of the Underground Railroad as well as a Bibliography, suggestions for further reading and websites where curious readers can find more information.

All this makes The Price of Freedom a welcomed addition to any classroom or home-school or for introducing any reluctant young readers to non-fiction through narrative.  But whatever the reason, this is a book well worth reading.

This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

This is book 9 of my 2012 Nonfiction Picture Book Reading Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy


  1. Thanks so much for your review, Alex! I've had this on my list to review for some time now. My BA is from Oberlin, which only increases my interest in the book!

  2. I enjoyed this one when I saw it earlier in the year. Thanks for the great review.


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