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Last Safe House, The: A Story of the Underground Railroad Hardcover – August 1, 1998

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Hardcover: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Kids Can Press (August 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1550745077
  • ISBN-13: 978-1550745078
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #375,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 3-6-A book that is part novel, part history lesson, and part activity guide. Surprisingly, Greenwood succeeds on all counts. The story revolves around a Canadian family's participation in the Underground Railroad in 1856. Johanna Reid, 12, must live with Eliza, an escaped slave, as Eliza waits to be reunited with her mother and brother, who did not make it to the safety of the Reids' home. Johanna learns to cope with her own prejudices as she comes to see Eliza as a friend. Interspersed with the girls' story of friendship are brief descriptions of life on a plantation and the Underground Railroad: how it worked, who risked their lives to escape or help others flee, and who profited from catching a fugitive slave. The information is often specific to Canada, but readers in the U.S. will not find the book unbalanced. The activities include songs and storytelling as well as directions for making a cornhusk doll, a lantern for a window (a signal on the Underground Railroad), and gingerbread cookies. Sepia drawings appear on almost every page, giving the book an open look. There is a rather paltry index considering the amount of information relayed. Teachers looking for ideas for a unit on the Underground Railroad and children who are looking for a briefer alternative to novels such as Kathryn Lasky's True North (Scholastic, 1996) will find what they want here.
Carol Fazioli, The Brearley School, New York City, NY
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

paper 1-55074-509-3 In short chapters, the story of fictional escaped slave Eliza Jackson and her family unfold, paralleling the effect on and courage of Canadian Johanna Reid and her family, who hide Eliza and her brother Ben until they can safel y reunite with their mother. The narrative introduces the points of view of Johanna, who must cope with the changes the ``midnight visitors'' bring, and Eliza and Ben, who recount their adventures traveling north to Canada from Virginia. Smoothly sandwich ed in are maps, drawings, and factual passages that give background details of the time, such as life on Southern plantations, profiles of important figures in the history of abolitionism, and activities, which nicely break up the information. The clean, approachable design presents all of these elements in a clear, organized manner and the black-and-white illustrations complement both fictional and historical elements. While no more dramatic or emotional than entries in the American Girls series, the boo k authentically examines the people and logistics of the Underground Railroad in an accessible and unusual way. (glossary, bibliography) (Fiction. 8-12) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 10 customer reviews
Wow, does it make for persuasive argument if I just say this book is good?
D. A. Lewis
I recommend this book to people who like history horses, adventure, and bravery.
BBCS 4th Grade
Heather Collins' black and white drawings are very detailed and informative.
Nicola Mansfield

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "AC" on February 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The Last Safe House is a blend of good research, good writing, enjoyable illustrations and activities to make the subject come alive for children. Greenwood spins a simple central tale of an escaped slave family and one of the families who helps them reach freedom, and uses this story as a springboard to a larger picture - the history of black slaves in America, the hero(ines) of the Underground Railroad, the whole question of justice and prejudice. Greenwood does not sugar-coat the issues or her characters - her protagonists are real children, who sulk, bicker and wish to be popular just like children do in every age. There's also a delightful lack of smugness about the presentation - this isn't a 'look at the wonderful white family helping out the poor black refugees' story, or even a 'look at the wonderful Canadians saving people from the terrible Americans' story - it's a book that examines a huge and complex issue in childsize pieces, in a sensitive yet sensible manner.
In my opinion, this book is award-winning has solid worth, and the illustrations and activities combine with the adventure in the story to produce a captivating whole (for children and adults alike). Bravo to Greenwood and Collins!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. A. Lewis on July 18, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow, does it make for persuasive argument if I just say this book is good? No, but Barbara Greenwood's "The Last Safe House"" is a must for anyone interested in the topics of slavery, underground railroad or 19th century history, (America or Canada).
What makes this book so special is that it is so much more that just a young adult novel. Yes, there is a fictional story being told here, but mixed into the fictional story are non-fictional side bar stories. So for example when the story starts to tell of a nefarious slave catcher, the author stops the fiction and starts giving us a real background of slave catchers and how they operated. Basically the footnotes for her story become part of the story. And believe me it is not distracting at all. It's almost like Barbara Greenwood is sitting us next to a fire and telling us the story and pausing every once in a while to more fully explain some things.
I also loved Heather Collins's illustrations. We are not talking the fine art you occasionally see in juvenile books, but we are talking very functional drawings that not only add to the story but to our general understanding. I would love to have a poster size picture of her drawing of "A Cotton Plantation."
In addition to the great design of this book, there are some story details that are often skipped over in many other similar type books. First off, she tell the story that slaves were still not completely free even if they made it to Canada. Also while Canada may have been the land of the free, it was not completely free of prejudice.
I collect books about the underground railroad as a hobby. And Barbara Greenwood's "The Last Safe House will be one of my most recommenced reads.
Snip, snap, snout, my tale is told out . . . . :-)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 4, 1998
Format: Paperback
The year is 1856. Twelve year old Johanna Reid lives in Saint Catharines, Ontario, a small town on the border of the U.S. and Canada. Eleven year old Eliza Jackson is escaping slavery in Virginia with her mother and older brother, Ben. Along the way, Eliza's mother is captured, and Eliza and Ben are separated. Eliza's journey brings her to the Reid home. At first, Johanna resents Eliza. But as she hears Eliza's story, she becames aware of the horrors that slaves face. Included in this book are activties and tidbits of historical information. THE LAST SAFE HOUSE brings the pre-Civil War period to life through an engaging story of two young girls.
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Format: Paperback
Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my son as part of our history studies.

Summary: The story of a slave mother and her two children who escape from a southern plantation to St. Catharines, Canada via the Underground Railroad. The family is split up and the little girl, Eliza, is the first to arrive across the border at the Reids' house and the story concentrates on her and the youngest Reid girl as they spend time together. From Eliza's point of view we see the weight of slavery lift and are told about her past life through flashbacks. From Johanna Reid we see at first jealousy at this girl who is so eager to please, then understanding of what slavery really is. The two girls become friends and Johanna soon comes to realize that even in a 'free' county there are some two-faced people who treat the blacks in town differently. The plot becomes more exciting as slave catchers come on the scene and through different ways the brother and mother finally make it to safety.

Comments: This book is set up exactly like Greenwood & Collins' Pioneer series of books. Between each chapter of the fictional story there is a non-fiction section which digs deeper into the subjects discussed. These sections often refer to the characters in the story and seamlessly join together. Each of these sections also includes an activity though they are less crafty than in previous books by this team. Here we have a few crafts, baking, singing, and storytelling. This is the first time I've read this title and I enjoyed even more than The Pioneer Story.
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