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62 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing historical novel!
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...
Published on October 7, 2008 by L. K. Messner

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is a good historical fiction book.
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson is a historical fiction novel. Chains is about a girl named Isabel and her younger sister Ruth, who are slaves during the American Revolution. Her master is a Loyalist, and she tries to gain her freedom by being a spy for the rebels. It takes place in New York in the 1770's.
I thought it was a pretty good historical fiction book. I...
Published 8 months ago by toki8th grader


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62 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing historical novel!, October 7, 2008
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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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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful perseverance, February 15, 2009
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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? Is there a good side or a bad side in a battle? We are taught that the British are the bad guys. Would you feel that way if you were a slave and could get freedom from them?

Many events transpire in this amazing book, but just look at the themes that crop up so far: racial invisibility, the British as possibly the "good guys" in the Revolution, the horrors of slavery against the strength of the people who suffered under it. Any of these themes would be a rich discussion to have with kids. Books like these tend to make the history we all learned in school much more real, more deeper, than just a series of dates and numbers to remember. We forget that history is made up of stories, of sides, and "Chains" allows some gentle exploration of those themes.

This is the first book I've read of Anderson. Her writing style is brief, fast paced, and complete. As a teacher, I appreciate the short chapters that pack a lot of story into a few pages. This would be an excellent read aloud book for any fourth grade classroom or higher, who are studying these issues in the class. I would love to use this book as a literature study, when it become available in paperback. And I'm now officially a fan of her work, and can't wait to delve into her other books.

Why the Newbery committee passed this stunning novel up is beyond me. I've read the current winner of the Newbery, The Graveyard Book, and while I found it to be interesting and intriguing, in my opinion, Chains soars above and beyond this book. If you are a teacher, buy this book now. It's really that good.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like historical fiction then Chains is likely right up your alley., June 20, 2014
If you like historical fiction then Chains is likely right up your alley. I thought this was a young adult novel but it was aimed at a younger audience. It would be an appropriate middle grade read for grades 5-8, but was so well written it could easily appeal to teens and adults as well.

Chains is set at the start of the Revolutionary War. I’m no history expert but this felt like it was an accurate account of what life was like at that time period. My daughter has to read several historical fiction novels this year and I’m going to recommend she choose this as one of them.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Content: Clean

Source: Library
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A look at the Revolutionary War from an entirely new perspective., November 20, 2008
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dampscribbler (Portland, OR USA) - See all my reviews
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We all learned in school about Paul Revere, the Redcoats, and the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Laurie Halse Anderson's excellent "Chains" tells the story of a young girl, Isabel, and her little sister who lived as slaves during the same time. Isabel observes the twists and turns of the white men's governments while she seeks her own opportunity to regain the freedom that is rightfully hers -- not only were she and her sister legally freed upon the death of her original mistress, but Isabel knows in her heart, her soul, and her head, that there is nothing right about one person owning another. Isabel is a smart, likeable character. The wisdom which seems beyond her years is hard won as a result of her circumstances -- from learning to read as a "priveleged" slave to learning to keep her mouth shut in her new, cruel household. I highly recommend "Chains," and I look forward to the next title in what I hope will be a series of historical novels from the talented Laurie Halse Anderson.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching Historical Fiction, October 26, 2008
By 
TammyJo Eckhart "TammyJo Eckhart" (Bloomington, Indiana United States) - See all my reviews
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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
4.0 out of 5 stars Chains (Seeds of America) By Laurie Halse Anderson - Book Review, November 24, 2013
This review is from: Chains (The Seeds of America Trilogy) (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. It was as if one was actually there in that time period with all of the characters. For example, she describes the main character as fierce, determined, and strong willed. These are common aspects of characters found in many books about slavery which are mostly used in order to portray a feeling of hope and optimism for the future. With her description of the character being so detailed it showed that the main character had been through a great deal of pain and hardship throughout the book. However, one thing that truly inspired me about the character was her will and determination to keep on going until the end, which was a constant theme in the book.

Similarly to other books I have read about slavery, the main character starts out with the notion that if she works hard and diligently, her master will take a liking towards her and one day grant her freedom. However, to Isabel's dismay, Madam Lockton is brutal, and constantly tortures and abuses the girls. Anderson eloquently describes the treatment received to the two girls with descriptive words, feeling, and emotion. One specific event that struck me when reading the book was on page 148, when the author states "The man with the leather apron pinned my head against the wood. He stank of charcoal. I tried to pull away, but my hands and head were locked fast. The splinters chewed on me. Dandelions grew in the mud. The glowing iron streaked in front of my face like a comet. The crowd roared. The man pushed the hot metal against my cheek. It hissed and bubbled. Smoke curled under my nose." This part truly shocked me, as I did not know that branding was ethical and was used as a form of torture to slaves. Like many of her other books, the author masterfully writes the book in first person, and gives a voice to the teenage character, in this case being, Isabel, who undergoes different problems and changes in her life. However, despite all of these changes, she still has the courage and will to never give up, and has the audacity to always stay true to herself. All in all, her writing style is what kept the book intriguing, and what made me never want to put it down.

When reading Chains, I was able to make many connections to books that I have focused on in my American Studies class. This quarter, we focused on topic of slavery and read the book: The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass himself. Throughout the book, I could see a lot of comparisons between the two main characters, Douglass and Isabel, in the way that they act and feel towards their masters. There is one specific event that showed this, which occurred when Frederick Douglass stood up to Master Covey. Similarly, on page 134, Isabel stands up to Madam Lockton and confronts her about the situation with Ruth. The author writes: "I took another step. `Answer me, you miserable cow. Did you sell my sister?' Madam backed up a step. Her letter fluttered to the bottom of the stairs. Her ancestors hung silent. `Stay away from me,' she said. `Get back to the kitchen.'"

With all of the elements of torture, misery, hardship, and feelings of hopelessness that the main character had to undergo, I would highly recommend this book to anyone studying slavery in school. It is quite an easy read, and eloquently describes the situation during that time period. While many of us study slavery as occurring after the American Revolution, this book is a twist as it shows the situation during the wars and tension of the American Revolution. The author even includes a reading guide at the end of the book, which provides a set of questions to make readers think deeper about the plot and helps to form great discussion sessions.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Children in Bondage, November 15, 2008
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Chains was a deeply sad and interesting book about New York under siege and the lives of the people living there, in particular one young slave girl, Isabel Gardener, recently orphaned and trying desperately to protect her younger sister in their new master's household. While Laurie Halse Anderson paints the expected, a brave and noble slave child, she does not romanticize events or attempt to simplify the situation by choosing sides. There are no heroics, and only a deep stoicism rescues Isabel from madness at crucial moments.

Isabel is living in a Tory household but works briefly as a spy for Rebels. Her loyalties tend toward the Rebels, but only because her only friend, another slave child, is working for them. The British and the Americans are shown as equally inhumane, as regards slavery. No one ever stands up for Isabel. The best Isabel gets is a bit of worthless pity now and then.

The portrait of New York city at this historic time is confined to the daily walk Isabel takes to draw water and run errands. However, in the back of the book, Anderson elaborates on the factual information in a question and answer section, and there I found that New York was much smaller than I would have imagined, taking up just a small corner of the island, the rest still woods and swamp at that time.

This is an excellent book for a mature 5th grader with a fairly high reading level. It is also great for middle-schoolers who will be studying the Revolutionary Era in depth in 8th grade. (I quite enjoyed it too, and I am 46.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Toki 8th grade student review of Chains, November 8, 2013
This review is from: Chains (The Seeds of America Trilogy) (Paperback)
Chains is a historical fiction book. Isabel and her younger sister Ruth are slaves in 1776 Rhode Island when their mistress dies. Isabel believes they are to be free, as her mistress specified in her will. However, her mistress’ nephew sells them to a Loyalist couple, the Locktons. When Isabel arrives in New York City, she meets a rebel slave, Curzon, who encourages her to spy on her new master and share the information with him in exchange for freedom.
This book features a strong female main character. Isabel is my favorite character because she is brave,compassionate, and intelligent. She is clever, using her knowledge to obtain hope. The plot of Chains involves two important phenomenons in American history: slavery and the American Revolution. Isabel, Ruth and Curzon provide unique perspectives of what it may have been like to be be a slave at this time.
I like when Isabel listens to her master’s conversations and learns about the Loyalists’ plans to defeat the rebels. He sees her as a bookcase, so he says anything in her presence. Isabel uses his ignorance to her advantage. I wish the author provided more thorough descriptions of Isabel’s emotions. I wanted a more personal connection to Isabel.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in history. Chains is a well written account of an important part of American history, told from the unique perspective of a slave.
This book would be useful in studying African-American literature because it seems to be historically accurate and it depicts the African-American characters as intelligent, which is critical because there is a common misperception that they are not intelligent. However, the story might have been more meaningful if it had been written by an African-American or someone with a connection to the American Revolution.

Review by Toki 8th grade student
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is a good historical fiction book., October 31, 2013
This review is from: Chains (The Seeds of America Trilogy) (Paperback)
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson is a historical fiction novel. Chains is about a girl named Isabel and her younger sister Ruth, who are slaves during the American Revolution. Her master is a Loyalist, and she tries to gain her freedom by being a spy for the rebels. It takes place in New York in the 1770's.
I thought it was a pretty good historical fiction book. I would rate it 3 and a half stars out of 5. I liked that there was a strong female main character. Also, a lot happens, so it isn't very slow moving. And its a historical fiction novel that was written recently so they don't use a lot of old fashioned words that are hard to understand.
My favorite part was at the end when Isabel was running away because she had been trying a long time to be free. My favorite character was Ruth, Isabel's little sister. She's sweet and a good little sister. I felt bad for her because of how she's been treated.
Some things I didn't like were that it's a series. I felt like there should have only been the one book. Also, there were a lot of characters; it was hard to keep track of who was who.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction that wasn't written a long time ago, or if a person likes books about slavery or the American Revolution.
I think it is useful for an African American unit because the reader doesn't hear about how the slaves were affected by the revolution; this book shows what it was like for them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book!, March 20, 2013
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This review is from: Chains (The Seeds of America Trilogy) (Paperback)
I bought this book to go through with a student I'm doing reading tutoring with. It is a wonderfully engaging historical fiction that is accessible for 6th grade and up. I love it as an educator.
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Chains (The Seeds of America Trilogy)
Chains (The Seeds of America Trilogy) by Laurie Halse Anderson (Paperback - January 5, 2010)
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