by Doreen Rappaport
illustrated by Curtis James
About the book:
During the Civil War, young Samuel and his father work on a Confederate steamship out of Charleston, South Carolina. Samuel and his family are born slaves. Every day when they look beyond the harbor filled with Confederate ships, they can see the Atlantic Ocean, where the Union ships are, where their freedom lies.
In only they could somehow get there. On May 13, 1862, Samuel and his family take their chances and risk it all to be free. Based on a true incident, Doreen Rappaport’s riveting story gives readers a glimpse into history, while Curtis James’ stunning illustrations further illuminate this gripping and suspenseful adventure.
- How did you learn about this remarkable story?
- What types of historical documents do you research when you’re writing a story like this one?
- What advice do you have for young writers?
About the guide:
This guide includes discussion questions intended to provoke thought and insight into the themes of the book, which include freedom, family, risk and hope.
What do you think is the meaning of the title? How can a ship take someone to freedom?
Is the book set in this time period or long ago? What makes you think this? What clues do author’s use to tell us what the time period is?
1. What is a slave? When did America have slavery?
2. Who is telling the story? Where did he learn it?
3. Who is the Union? Who are the confederates? What war are they fighting?
4. Why would Samuel be free if he could only get to a Union ship?
5. Why does Samuel’s mother tell him to do everything quietly? What could happen if he disobeyed?
6. How do they get past the other ships and the islands that are guarded? What is the plan if they get caught? Why are they willing to do that?
7. Why does Pap put on Captain Relyea’s clothing? Does it work?
8. What do they do with Samuel’s white sheet? What does it mean?
9. What do they give to the Union Army? Why?
10. Would you be willing to risk everything for such a daring escape? Why or why not?
Write the dialogue between the escaping women and children hidden in the dark cabin below deck. What might they be whispering to each other? What hopes do they have for their new life?
Social Studies/ Geography:
Color a United States map from the 1860’s. Color the union states blue and the confederate states red. Place an X where this story takes place.
The color of freedom. Create two pieces of art, an abstract painting that uses colors, shape and design to represent slavery and a second piece that uses colors, shape and design to represent freedom. Explain your choices in a brief artist’s statement.