From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 5–8—Toussaint, born a slave in the French colony of St. Domingue, led the first successful slave uprising in the Americas in 1793, defeating first the French and then the British and American opportunists who hoped to take advantage of the new country. The Haitian revolution is put in context with those in America and France, and its significance is made clear as Rockwell connects Napoleon's defeat in Haiti with his willingness to sell French Louisiana to the United States. Christie's bold, naive gouache illustrations invoke Haiti's beauty and savage history. The scene of Toussaint preventing a fellow revolutionary from unnecessarily killing a white man and the rendering of the bleak French prison in which the hero died are particularly striking. Altogether, this is a beautiful and captivating portrait of a leader whose story will probably be unfamiliar to most youngsters. Written for an older audience than Walter Dean Myers's Toussaint L'Ouverture: The Fight for Haiti's Freedom
(S & S, 1996), it is a welcome addition to biography and history collections.—Rebecca Donnelly, Loma Colorado Public Library, Rio Rancho, NM
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In this eye-opening biography, Rockwell makes a strong case that Toussaint L’Ouverture is one of the most overlooked heroes of the eighteenth century. A freed slave of the French colony of St. Domingue (what we now know as Haiti), L’Ouverture was 48 when he was so inspired by his people’s uprising against the French that he joined them and, through his oratory and strategical skills, became their leader. In 1793, he led history’s first triumphant slave rebellion, but the resulting freedom would not last long. Eight years later, Napoleon sent troops to capture the island; the acumen of St. Domingue’s army, combined with the onset of yellow fever, decimated the French troops before L’Ouverture’s eventual—and mysterious—surrender. Rockwell biggest revelation: Napoleon’s onslaught was meant as a precursor to attacking the U.S.; instead, it ended the general’s career and led to the Louisiana Purchase. Evocative paintings in primary colors help tell the story (the rendition of Toussaint in prison is especially poignant), while biographies and source notes make up the excellent back matter. Grades 5-8. --Daniel Kraus