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Steal Away Paperback – September 1, 1993


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Lexile Measure: 690L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks; Reprint edition (September 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0590469215
  • ISBN-13: 978-0590469210
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #728,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the fall of 1896 elderly Susannah McKnight coaxes her granddaughter Mary to travel with her to Canada to visit someone Mary regards as an "old slave woman." Mary's vision of Bethlehem Reid is shattered, however, when she hears an amazing story of undying friendship and courage. As young girls Susannah and Bethlehem helped each other escape to the North: for Bethlehem, freedom; for Susannah, a return to the home she loved. Rich and emotionally resonant, this compelling, true story is told in compassionate, lush language; delighting not only in its poetic imagery and uncompromising clarity of expression but in the suspense and adventure of the girls' flight to personal liberty. Bethlehem and Susannah's friendship, born of circumstance and necessity, is never sentimentalized but remains fierce and heartbreaking to the last. This powerful, moving and thought-provoking narrative is sure to stay with readers long after it is finished. Ages 8-12.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8-- The title comes from a spiritual used as a signal to slaves that the time had come for them to make a run for freedom. Susannah, 13, thinks about such matters in the abstract until the year her parents die and she is taken to Virginia to live with her uncle's family. She believes that slavery is wrong, and matters are made worse when she is given a slave, Bethlehem. Susannah befriends her, teaches her to read, and then asks her help getting back to Vermont. While the story line is occasionally unrealistic--the girls have much too easy a time running north, for example--its strength lies in its unstinting examination of emotions. Bethlehem deals with her hatred of slavery, her resentment of the white girl, and her need to go on to Canada rather than to stay with Susannah, now a friend. Susannah must come to terms with her feelings about the black race. And her granddaughter, to whom the story is told, finds her own eyes opened and her prejudices exposed. Characterization of the main heroines is sound, although the secondary players never come to life. Despite the facile surface, the issues explored in this book run deep. When read with William Katz's Breaking the Chains (Atheneum, 1990), this will go a long way toward explicating the damage done by slavery. --Ann Welton, Thomas Academy, Kent, WA
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Plume45 on October 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is hard to put down, for Jennifer Armstrong weaves a compelling story of interracial friendships--a tale within a tale which spans 3 generations. Alternating between 1855 (when Slavery was grimly legal) and the "present" of 1896, STEAL AWAY presents readers with a literary device known shared narratives, so that each girl very has the opportunity to give a first-person account of their flight from Virginia to the their new life up North. Both their modern counterparts, Mary and Free, are captivated, as elderly women whom they love and respect recount the details of this 40-year-old odyssey; the girls share their writing-down task, as they marvel at the pages--the seal of their lifelong devotion. Will two strange girls be able to bond, by the mere act of the retelling, for it was both a physical and an emotional journey to find freedom and Home?
Thirteen-year-old Susannah is suddenly orphaned and forced to leave the family farm in Vermont, with all its precious memories of her parents, the boy next door, and her carefree existence. She must travel by train (an ordeal in itself) down to a new world, in Virginia, to the farm of her Reverend uncle, who firmly believes in the insitution of slavery. But Susannah will never fit into this genteel Southern society; she does not even know how to treat or address her own personal slave!
Longing to put plantation life and its immoral abuse of dark-skinned human beings behind her forever, spunky Susannah resolves to run away and sneak back to the only home she has ever known. But she needs the help of more worldy-wise Bethlehem, to prepare for this dangerous enterprise. Suddenly circumstances force both girls to depart together, with a minimum of preparation. Beth longs for Canada--a place on a map where there is no slavery.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ...Loggie... on June 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
The book was written well, but in a confusing format. Mary is writing down a story from her grandmother's childhood, with help from a girl named Free. The book however starts with a message from Mary to Free written later when they had grown up. This letter, and the one at the end as well, confused me and threw me off.
The story being told is, as I said, about Mary's Grandmother. She was born in Vermont in a time before slavery was abolished. This is the story of how when her parents died she was sent to live in Virginia with her slave owning, preacher uncle. The fact that a preacher owns slaves confuses her because she has grown up in Vermont, and she is further set off balance by being given a slave named Bethlehem. They decide to run away, and throughout their travels you can't tell if they are friends or people who are determined that the other is a burden on them.
For better historical fiction I suggest Ann Rinaldi
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
I reccomend this book to anyone. A story of 2 girls, a white yankee and a slave, banding together to fight for freedom, and so much more. This powerful story is testament to the struggles of the races in the 1800's. Whether you are interested in slavery and the south or not, this book is for you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kaylie Pearce on February 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Steal Away
I really did like this book but it was very confusing. It jumped back and fourth from place to place a lot and I often got confused. So if I had to rate this book from one to ten I would give it a seven. I also didn't really enjoy it because it was kind of dull and nothing exciting really happened. One thing I did like about this book is the way it started out it was one of the best parts of the book, it was very exciting and suspenseful. Although I liked the book pretty well it had some bad points, like it really moved way to fast and never stayed on one subject long enough so that you knew what it was talking about it was very confusing. At the end of the book it was really confusing because it mentioned characters that it hadn't mentioned since the beginning of the book so I didn't know exactly what it was talking about and I had to keep looking back. I have read books that are much better than this one but I have also read many books that are much worse. So that means that I think this book is pretty good. I also think that this book is mostly for older people to read because it is very in depth and very historic, most kids weren't alive in those days so they can't relate to it and sometimes what makes a book good is when you can relate to it. So grown ups can relate to it better if they were alive in those times but kids can't relate at all because they weren't alive.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book was boring and swithes between years, which confused me, and wasnt very entertaining. It was basically the same thing all the way through the book. There are much better books available.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Ms. Armstrong takes the reader into the heart of tension between slavery and abolition, white and black, young and old. While fiction, the historic facts are accurate making the story work to draw readers into a better understanding of history. I enjoyed the interplay of two voices either while in the past or in the "present" of late 19th century. Good book for teachers to use with students fifth grade and up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sylviastel VINE VOICE on July 4, 2011
Format: Paperback
The story of two girls, a white orphan and an African American slave girl, and their friendship fleeing the South before the Civil War could be an intriguing tale. But sadly, the writer uses flashbacks and a reunion about 40 years later in order to help relate the story. I believe the writer would have been more effective if she had followed the story's narrative in 1855 and then progressed until 1896.

Sometimes, simple storytelling could be just as effective without using writer's devices like flashbacks. The book is aimed for young readers. Even though I'm not young, I was confused by how the book unfolded. While the book has a great story, it just needs to be told in a better format and revised for future readers.
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