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Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule Paperback – February 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A 12-year-old orphaned slave leaves South Carolina in search of a Freedmen's Bureau during Reconstruction to claim the "40 acres and a mule" promised by General Sherman. "A stirring story of self-determination," said PW. Ages 8-12. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-6-Once again, Robinet has humanized a little-known piece of American history. In the spring of 1865, the Freedmen's Bureau approved a plan to give 40 acres of abandoned land to former slave families. Forty thousand freed people took advantage of that offer, only to lose their farms when it was withdrawn in September. The author focuses on Pascal, 12, a slave on a plantation in South Carolina. His older brother Gideon, who ran away during the war, returns to collect him and they head for Georgia, determined to become landowners. Teaming up with Pascal's friend Nelly and the elderly Mr. Freedman and his granddaughter, they form a family, claim land, and begin to farm. The Bibbs, white neighbors from Tennessee, are helpful in protecting them from the night riders who are determined to destroy black-owned farms. Despite their hard work, Pascal and the others are evicted at the end of the summer. Luckily, Gideon had found a treasure buried under a tree, and they set out to buy land on the Georgia Sea Islands. Pascal is a likable boy whose withered hand and leg limit his body but not his mind and whose dreadful jokes entertain everyone. The dialect may deter some readers at first, but sympathy for the characters will keep children going until they reach the satisfying ending.
Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Aladdin; Reprint edition (February 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689833172
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689833175
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By X. Libris on March 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
I'm surprised to see very few reviews posted here for this excellent award-winning work of historical fiction for middle readers. This Scott O'Dell Award winner about African-American life in the South is in the same tradition as the renowned "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" books by Mildred Taylor.
Here we get on an emotional roller-coaster ride as we follow the lives of three young ex-slaves during the early days of Reconstruction in 1865. Gideon returns from following General Sherman to his former plantation to retrieve his younger crippled brother, Pascal, and his orphaned friend Nelly. In their quest to find the "forty acres and maybe a mule" in Georgia, that had been promised by General Sherman, they befriend a grandfatherly carpenter, and his long-lost granddaughter, to create a new family.
The harsh realities of unjust treatment by white nightriders, who are trying to force emancipated slaves to return to their plantations, are tempered by various friendly white people who help them find their forty acres, open a school for the children, register them to vote, who become neighbors, etc.
This is a story of determination, hard work, rebuilding lives and families, of hope, peace, and love, in the face of discrimination and cruelty.
A seldom recognized historical fact is woven into this well-researched tale: the party of Lincoln, the Republican Party, was the original party of Civil Rights. The impact of the death of Lincoln on these emancipated slaves that were given land is dramatically portrayed here. And the quick backpedaling of his successor, Andrew Johnson, becomes a painful reality for nearly 39,000 black landowners just months after he takes office.
This book deserves a wider reading by upper elementary through middle school students and their teachers, especially when discussing the facts surrounding the impact of the Civil War and early Reconstruction efforts in the South.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Henrietta D. Hayes on April 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
The events in this book kept me on the edge of mt seat. My emotions were in constant turmoil. At times I found myself full of joy and hope for the City family. The very next moment, I was experiencing fear and sorrow, not knowing whether the family could survive the constant dangers presented by the nightriders. A major theme throughout this book is man against society. Robinet allows the reader to enter the world of ex-slaves during the reconstruction period. The reader is able to experience the fears and the joys of the characters. The true historical events presented help the reader to understand the brutality of slavery. Readers can also see that this brutality did not end when President Lincoln freed the slaves. Readers can also see how the characters changed during the telling of this story. Pascal learns that he is a worthwhile person even though he has a physical disability. Gideon learns that he is a man whether or not he owns land. He and the others learn that freedom is about having dignity. The land can be taken, but freedom can't be taken away from you.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Pasacal, a slave boy who's about twelve years old, was born with a withered hand and leg, so he never did heavy work. Now that the Civil War is over, Pascal and his older brother, Gideon, and nine year old Nelly, a slave from their plantation, decide to claim the forty acres and a mule being offered to former slaves. They don't get the mule, but they do get the forty acres, and Pascal is determined to help out in building their new home. Can Pascal, his brother, and little Nelly, who's like a sister to him, build a life outside slavery? Read this great book to find out!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Henrietta D. Hayes on April 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
The events in this book kept me on the edge of my seat. My emotions were in constant turmoil. At times I found myself full of joy and hope for the City family. The very next moment, I was experiencing fear and sorrow, not knowing whether the family could survive the constant dangers presented by the nightriders. A major theme throughout this book is man against society. Robinet allows the reader to enter the world of ex-slaves during the reconstruction period. The reader is able to experience the fears and the joys of the characters. The true historical events presented help the reader to understand the brutality of slavery. Readers can also see that this brutality did not end when President Lincoln freed the slaves. Readers can also see how the characters changes during the telling of this story. Pascal learns that he is a worthwhile person even though he has a physical disability. Gideon learns that he is a man whether or not he owns land. He and the other ex-slaves learn that freedom is about having dignity. The land can be taken, but freedom can't be taken away from you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rozanne Lamar on September 28, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a 5th grade Social Studies Teacher in South Carolina, Reconstruction is a part of the Social Studies Standards. This book REALLY makes Reconstruction come alive for my students. My 5th graders connect with the characters. The vocabulary is excellent. The Literacy portions of the Common Core are easily integrated into this unit by using this book. Actually I was integrating them before there was Common Core we just did not call it CC. The book is also an excellence example of teaching Character Education in a public school and if you are in a Christian school - the Biblical Christian Worldview is almost automatic in its incorporation. I cannot recommend this book enough unless it would be to say if you live in the Charleston, SC area there is actually a field trip to go with the book - the Plantation actually has based their field trip on the book. This is a MUST READ for 5-7th graders studying Reconstruction.
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