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Promises to the Dead [Kindle Edition]

Mary Downing Hahn
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Mary Downing Hahn combines powerful characters, dark secrets, and breathtaking suspense in a compelling Civil War-era story readers won't soon forget. Aiding and abetting an escaped slave is against the law, and it goes against everything Jesse Sherman has been taught. But he has promised a dying runaway slave that he will take her seven-year-old son, Perry, to safety in Baltimore. He can't break a promise made to the dead, no matter what the risks. More important, he must follow what he knows to be true in his heart. When the journey turns out to be far more difficult and dangerous than he anticipated, and he loses Perry on the riot-torn streets of Baltimore, Jesse comes face to face with the worst humanity has to offer. But he also witnesses examples of love, compassion, and courage unlike anything he's experienced before. AUTHOR'S NOTE.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hahn's (Anna All Year Round) historical novel, set in a divided Maryland at the beginning of the Civil War, portrays an unconvincing tale of escape from slavery. The story begins with a tenuous premise: 12-year-old narrator Jesse stumbles on a desperate pregnant runaway captive (whom Jesse recognizes), Lydia, and her young son, Perry, fathered by her recently deceased master, Peregrine Baxter. She holds Jesse at knifepoint ("She'd just as soon kill you as look at you," Perry tells Jesse), yet as the woman is dying from childbirth, Jesse promises her that he'll deliver Perry to Peregrine Baxter's sister in Baltimore (though readers will question whether he'd find a welcome reception). While readers may suspend disbelief regarding Jesse's risk taking, they may not take the leap of faith that captives with even more to lose would help them so freely. For example, during a riot inspired by the influx of Union soldiers in Baltimore (based on actual events), the "meanest and most determined slave-catcher in Talbot County" nabs Perry and knocks Jesse, with a pistol, on the head; Jesse faints in front of Judge Baxter's (Peregrine Baxter's father) residence, and the judge's staff secretly nurses him for weeks. The connection between Jesse and Perry is not fully developed, hence their relationship--as well as Jesse's Herculean efforts--seems hollow. Ages 10-14. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-6-Despite some unlikely coincidences and superficial secondary characters, this is a reasonably exciting adventure story that integrates many historical details. When 12-year-old Jesse, a white Southerner, promises Lydia, a slave who dies while trying to escape, that he will take her young son, Perry, to relatives in Baltimore, he finds himself not only traveling farther than he's ever been, but caught up in the outbreak of the Civil War as well. The focus of the story is Jesse's realization about the evils of slavery, personified by the despicable Colonel Botfield, who is searching for the runaways. In the end, Jesse has learned to question much of what he has been taught. The African-American characters, while mostly brave and good, serve mainly to move the plot along. Some readers may find the facts that Perry's father was a white slave owner who seduced Lydia and that Colonel Botfield is indeed Lydia's father confusing. While these details add important historical information, they overload the plot at times. Still, the dangers that Jesse and Perry encounter, and the events they witness, from a riot in Baltimore to a skirmish with Union soldiers, make this an involving story that raises many of the issues that led to the Civil War.
Cyrisse Jaffee, formerly at Newton Public Schools, MA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mary Drowning Hahn December 19, 2002
A Kid's Review
Format:Paperback
This book, Promises to the Dead, is a great book that took place during the Civil War time. It begins when Jesse is hunting turtles for the family's famous soup in the family down in the creek. The next thing he knows is that he's finding himself promising a dying slave women that he'll take her young son, Perry, to a relative in Baltimore. Caring for a slave was against the law and against everthing Jesse was thought. He can't break a promise made to the dead and more importanly, he must follow what in his heart is right. The journey turns out complety different from what Jesse thought. He comes upon many hard decisions and tough choices he must do for what he thinks is right. Does Jesse make it through? Read the book to find out!!
I did like the book because it was suspensful and tought you to do was right from wrong. It really made you think of what is important in life. I would recommend the book if you like to be in suspense and if you like books on Historical Fiction and wars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful January 6, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Loved everything about this novel: the dialect, the quest, the uncommon friendship.

I would highly recommend this novel, and don't be dissuaded by the title and Hahn's other novels -- this isn't a ghost story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a teacher's view January 4, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As a middle school teacher, I am always looking for books which will catch the interest of my students. This book has danger, the mysterious, and a touch of history that will grab their attention.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book January 3, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book was the best book I read by this author and so far I have read three books by this author. But this book was so fascinating to me that I read it one whole day I could put the book down, and this is a true story, in the back of the book it tells how this story was a true story that happens to the authors parents grandparents. This is the third book I read and it was amazing ever book I pick up by this author I end up loving it more than I loved the one before . I give this book five stars. One of my new ball time favorites.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars review April 24, 2002
A Kid's Review
Format:Hardcover
i thought this book was very interesting it told a lot about how it was when there was slaves.people who like mysteries and thrillers should read this i think mary downing is a great writer and that everyone should read it to find out what it was really like in a persons point of view that was there when there was slaves.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm... April 8, 2012
By Kelly C
Format:Kindle Edition
Not as chilling as many of MDH's other books. Still a very good book, however. I got this from my school library, and I have friends who read it and feel the same way.

~Kelly
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book! May 6, 2014
By Tina
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this for my daughter and have decided to read it myself. My daughter is 12 and loves this author and wants all her books. It's really good read so far!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Grazie i looped this book March 10, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
this is the first book I ever read which I liked and was exited to read it was hard to put down but amazing novel #lovedit
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
My 10 yr old granddaughter loves all of Mary Downing Hahn's books. She has just about all of them & wants more.
Published 4 months ago by Phyllis Purcell
5.0 out of 5 stars Book
Great book related to history especially for the younger reader. This allows to understand A HISTORIC event in our nations history.
Published 5 months ago by penny bates
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book leading to education
I loved this book. I especially love books that relate to history and this is a good book for that.
Published 6 months ago by Isabella Bass
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent way to put the past on the future.
I chose the rating I did because if you read this when you finish you want to read more and more and more that you will miss this book because it is that good.
Published 6 months ago by Kindle Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read
A great Civil War story for students. My fourth grade grandson and I thiroughly enjoyed this. As usual, Mary Hahn wove an interesting story. We did not want to put this one down. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Juanita
5.0 out of 5 stars Promises to the dead book
It must be a very good book - bought it for my 7th grade grandchild and she read it in record time.
Published 8 months ago by Theresa
2.0 out of 5 stars The Ending is soooooooooooooooo saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad
Best book I read but the ending, drew me to tears in my 5th grade class just too sad man.
Published 10 months ago by Rafael P. Garcia
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
This book was excited shocking at some points and very interesting it was an excellent book and I would recommend this book to people that like scary books if u do u should read it... Read more
Published 11 months ago by TrueVForce
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual for Hahn
This is not a typical Hahn book and so, at first, I was a little disappointed. When I pick up a Hahn, I have been programmed to expect chills, thrills and goosebumps. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Carla C. Thomas
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
I loved the somewhat thrilling and heart warming story. It was great. It wasn't quit a page turner at times though.
Published 14 months ago by karamarie
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More About the Author

Mary Downing Hahn, a former children's librarian, is the award-winning author of many popular ghost stories, including Deep and Dark and Dangerous and The Old Willis Place. An avid reader, traveler, and all-around arts lover, Ms. Hahn lives in Columbia, Maryland, with her two cats, Oscar and Rufus.

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