From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6 - This fast-paced story chronicles the life of the enslaved man best known for his lawsuit to win his freedom. While Scott is mentioned in most elementary American history textbooks, the details of his 11-year legal struggle are largely ignored. While acknowledging that he was fairly well treated by his owners, the book reinforces the fact that slaves were forced to work against their will, with no pay, and often separated from family members. The extent to which they were considered property is evident in this novel as Scott is moved about the country and hired out to others at the whim of his owners. The narrative is written in the dialect Scott would have spoken, which may make it difficult reading for some children. Also, Moses fails to give a real sense of her subject; Scott never expresses emotion inwardly or outwardly. Still, fans of historical fiction written in journal format, made popular by the "Dear America" series (Scholastic), will enjoy this story, which will reach even more students if read aloud. The book contains a foreword written by Dred Scott's great-grandson. - Anne L. Tormohlen, Deerfield Elementary School, Lawrence, KS
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Gr. 8-11. Few people know why the Dred Scott decision is considered one of the causes of the Civil War. This fictionalized slave narrative humanizes the struggle of brave Dred Scott and supplies extensive historical notes that explain the complex legal facts. Scott, born a slave, traveled with his master to several northern states. Sixteen years later he discovered that, according to the Missouri Compromise, his slavery ended when he "stepped foot in free territory." Abolitionist lawyers helped him sue for freedom, and although he triumphed at first, his owners appealed and won, with the Supreme Court eventually deciding that slaves like Scott were not free--a notorious decision that polarized the country. The legal stuff is dense, but it's balanced somewhat by the personal anguish of slave family separation. The small, beautifully designed book, with spacious type, is illustrated with stirring full-page wood engravings, and the commentary and eloquent foreword by Scott's great-grandson are part of the story. An excellent curriculum addition, this book will resonate with adults as well as teens. Hazel Rochman
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