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Chains (The Seeds of America Trilogy) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 21, 2008

285 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Seeds of America Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6–10—Set in New York City at the beginning of the American Revolution, Chains addresses the price of freedom both for a nation and for individuals. Isabel tells the story of her life as a slave. She was sold with her five-year-old sister to a cruel Loyalist family even though the girls were to be free upon the death of their former owner. She has hopes of finding a way to freedom and becomes a spy for the rebels, but soon realizes that it is difficult to trust anyone. She chooses to find someone to help her no matter which side he or she is on. With short chapters, each beginning with a historical quote, this fast-paced novel reveals the heartache and struggles of a country and slave fighting for freedom. The characters are well developed, and the situations are realistic. An author's note gives insight into issues surrounding the Revolutionary War and the fight for the nation's freedom even though 20 percent of its people were in chains. Well researched and affecting in its presentation, the story offers readers a fresh look at the conflict and struggle of a developing nation.—Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In the spring of 1776, Isabel, a teenage slave, and her sister, Ruth, are sold to ruthless, wealthy loyalists in Manhattan. While running errands, Isabel is approached by rebels, who promise her freedom (and help finding Ruth, who has been sent away) if she agrees to spy. Using the invisibility her slave status brings, Isabel lurks and listens as Master Lockton and his fellow Tories plot to crush the rebel uprisings, but the incendiary proof that she carries to the rebel camp doesn’t bring the desired rewards. Like the central character in M. T. Anderson’s Octavian Nothing duet, Isabel finds that both patriots and loyalists support slavery. The specifics of Isabel’s daily drudgery may slow some readers, but the catalogue of chores communicates the brutal rhythms of unrelenting toil, helping readers to imagine vividly the realities of Isabel’s life. The story’s perspective creates effective contrasts. Overwhelmed with domestic concerns, Isabel and indeed all the women in the household learn about the war from their marginalized position: they listen at doors to rooms where they are excluded, and they collect gossip from the streets. Anderson explores elemental themes of power (“She can do anything. I can do nothing,” Isabel realizes about her sadistic owner), freedom, and the sources of human strength in this searing, fascinating story. The extensive back matter includes a documented section that addresses many questions about history that readers will want to discuss. Grades 7-10. --Gillian Engberg

Featured Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Read an excerpt, explore the reader's guide, and get a behind-the-scenes look at Laurie Halse Anderson's Chains, a National Book Award finalist.

Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Lexile Measure: 780L (What's this?)
  • Series: The Seeds of America Trilogy
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (October 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416905855
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416905851
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (285 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #238,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More 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 American Library Association and state awards. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists. Chains also made the Carnegie Medal Shortlist in the United Kingdom.

Laurie was the proud recipient of the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award given by YALSA division of the American Library Association for her "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature...". She was also honored with the ALAN Award from the National Council of Teachers of English and the St. Katharine Drexel Award from the Catholic Librarian Association.

Mother of four and wife of one, Laurie lives in Northern New York, where she likes to watch the snow fall as she writes. She and her husband, Scot, plus dogs Kezzie and Thor, and assorted chickens and other critters enjoy country living and time in the woods. When not writing or hanging out with her family, you can find Laurie training for marathons or trying to coax tomatoes out of the rocky soil in her backyard. You can follow her adventures on Twitter,, and on her blog,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 82 people found the following review helpful By L. K. Messner on October 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
CHAINS by Laurie Halse Anderson tells the story of Isabel, a slave trapped in New York City in the early days of the Revolution. Sold to Loyalists when her former owner dies, she's offered the chance to spy for the Patriots. But does their talk of liberty really include her? What about the British, who promise freedom to slaves who join their fight against the rebels?

This book is impeccably researched in a way that not only convinced me I was getting "the real deal" as far as the historical details are concerned but also transported me straight back into the 18th century. Some historical novels that have tackled this issue in the past have made it overly simple, but CHAINS is different. The historical context isn't simplified, the Patriot cause isn't glorified, and the characters are flawed, complex, and rich. As a reader and as a teacher, I am in serious book-love. As soon as I read the advance reader copy, I made plans to use this novel in my 7th grade classroom. CHAINS is a well-researched look at choices made by individuals during the Revolution, a coming-of-age story for a girl and a nation, and an absolute page-turner. It's everything that historical fiction ought to be.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By James Hiller VINE VOICE on February 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The heroine in Laurie Halse Anderson's gripping new middle level children's book, "Chains" is a thirteen year old slave named Isabel, headstrong, fierce in her determination to keep her epileptic sister Ruth with her, intuitive, and strong. What might fell the mightiest of people only serves to strengthen Isabel, time and time again, proving that determination was much needed during this turbulent time in our nation's history. "Chains" is the children's book of the year. It's that good.

Anderson's blending of a slave story with the the Revolutionary War and the battle of New York creates a story ripe with possibilities and is fresh and new. At the beginning of the story, Isabel and Ruth attend the funeral of their former owner, thinking that a will would give them freedom. Alas, it was not to be. An unscrupulous relative sells off the girls to the first customers, a pair of England loyalists named Lockton, who transport the pair to their New York home to serve them.

Immediately off the boat, Isabel befriends a spritely lad Curzon, who begs to employ her in the cause of the American Revolution, playing brilliantly on the fact that white society deemed black slaves to be invisible. Only wanting her freedom, Isabel promises nothing but soon delivers, after learning of a plot to kill General Washington. When that doesn't give her freedom, she begins to mistrust the patriots' cause, and learns of the British claim to ensure freedom to any slaves that would join up against the revolution.

What makes this book novel is a slavery story set, not in the south, but New York City, which naturally leads to the discussion of how slavery was in our early history throughout the country and not just in one area. It also plays with the themes of which "side" in a war is the good side?
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By TammyJo Eckhart VINE VOICE on October 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For ages 10+ this is an intense account of slavery in pre-Independence times of the USA. Too often we think that slavery only got bad in the 19th century or that it was limited to southern plantations. That is not the truth. Nor is it the truth that every slave owner was evil or every slave an innocent suffering. Laurie Halse Anderson does an excellent job of showing the complexities of slavery in the life of one young slave (her age is never given), her mentally handicapped 5 year old sister, and those they must interact with to survive the challenge of war. If you are not familiar with the true nature of slavery you will find this book disturbing. The question and answer section at the end of the book answers a lot of questions you may have about this period in American history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Pooja Sadhwani on November 24, 2013
Format: Paperback
Chains, a brilliant historical fiction book written by Laurie Halse Anderson tells the story of two enslaved girls, Isabel and her epileptic sister, Ruth. The book starts off with the two girls attending the funeral of their former owner who had just recently passed away, thinking that their master's will would give them the freedom that they deserve. However, a turn of events occur, and unfortunately an unscrupulous relative sells the girls off to the first customer who offers a decent price, a Loyalist couple from New York.

When getting off the boat, Isabel meets Curzon, a slave to the well-known Patriot, Master Bellingham. Unlike most slavery-themed books, Chains takes place during the American Revolution, in 1776. During the revolutionary period, there were two sides: the Loyalists and the Patriots. Seeing that Isabel and her sister were auctioned off to serve the Loyalist couple, Curzon befriends Isabel and begs that she acts as a spy for the Patriots, in order to report any information that would be useful to them. In return, he ensured that she and her sister would eventually be free. At first she is weary of this plan, and disagrees. However, when later overhearing her master and his friends discuss about a plan to kill General Washington, she reports back to Curzon, who informs his master of everything. Over the span of many months, she overhears talks about the British ensuring freedom to the slaves who help in the war against the rebels. When not retrieving her freedom after giving the information to Curzon and his master, she quickly questions herself and her secret alliance to the Patriots, and immediately starts to change her mind.

Throughout the book, the author portrays the characters in an absolutely outstanding manner.
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