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Come August, Come Freedom: The Bellows, The Gallows, and The Black General Gabriel Hardcover – September 11, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In 1800, long before the Civil War, there was a slave uprising in Richmond, Virginia, and this stirring fictionalized biography imagines the life of the young rebel leader, Gabriel. Born a slave on a plantation, young Gabriel learns to read with the owner’s son, Thomas, and is trained as a blacksmith in town. But he also witnesses unspeakable brutality: his father is sold away, his mother is whipped, and when Thomas takes over as master, he refuses to allow Gabriel to marry fellow slave Nanny. Inspired by the slave revolt led by Touissant Louverture on Saint Domingue Island, 24-year-old Gabriel calls on his people to fight for freedom, and thousands follow him. With his blacksmith training, he helps forge swords from pitchforks and scythes, but the plot is discovered. The line between fact and fiction is not always clear: Are the slave-owner’s journal entries invented or archival documents? But the authentic newspaper reports put the history in context, and the thrilling role of the unrecognized young hero will grab teen readers. Grades 8-12. --Hazel Rochman

Review

Amateau’s prose is appropriately passionate, but it’s tempered with disciplined restraint and moments of startling delicacy. Although the subject of this title will call to historical fiction readers who appreciate such thoughtful works as M. T. Anderson’s Octavian Nothing (BCCB 11/06), teens who approach history with the poetic insight of Marilyn Nelson will also find Amateau’s chronicle rewarding.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)

The thrilling role of the unrecognized young hero will grab teen readers.
—Booklist
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"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 900L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (September 11, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763647926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763647926
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #337,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Emily J. Morris VINE VOICE on October 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I admit, I do feel guilt over reading about the work of important historical figures and then snubbing it. But I've done it before and here I am doing it again. Gigi Amateau pulls a figure out of history, tells his story, and somehow in the process completely neglects the storyteller's art. This is a book that will probably be defended with passionate cries of "Butbutbut it's history!"

Sorry, but that's not enough for me.

With all due respect to the Black General, this book is completely dry and lackluster. In Ms. Amateau's excitement of telling this story, she fails to create interesting characters or even work to engage the reader. I found myself soldiering through this book for lack of anything else to do, appreciating the book's situations, but never becoming absorbed into this story. The historical documents tucked everywhere in this book are interesting in and of themselves, but with the dry writing and storytelling are more distractions that left me wondering if they were included simply because Ms. Amateau didn't want to bother writing out the details. In fact, much of this book is told simply through dull summary.

Yes, Ms. Amateau brings to light a fascinating figure from a time of chaos in history, and I appreciate her doing that. But as a novel, this book falls flat.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book, which reads like a book for young adults, is a fictionalized account of actual events that conveniently have been forgotten (like the U.S.-backed Fenian invasion of Canada, as told in books such as Fianna: A story every Canadian school child learns, but one conveniently forgotten in America., Ridgeway: The American Fenian Invasion and the 1866 Battle that Made Canada: The History of Canada and Turning Back the Fenians: New Brunswick's Last Colonial Campaign (New Brunswick Military Heritage Series)). It also is a carefully crafted character study of a man trapped by the limits imposed upon him by society, and his attempts, both intellectual and spiritual, to transcend those limitations. In the end, like all true revolutionaries, he responds to failure in the intellectual and spiritual realms by treading the path of violence to achieve his goal.

The book, which is interspersed with simple black-and-white drawings and quite a few historical anecdotes (particularly of the U.S. Atlantic slave trade), is a powerful and stark reminder of a very dark time in American history. Hopefully, one day books like this one will become required reading for all schoolchildren in the United States.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to get to know the real, and very sordid, history of America.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I read a lot of historical fiction and I have to admit, I was really let down by this book. I learned more about Gabriel from reading the wiki page than I did this volume. The book seems to rest somewhere between speculative history and biography and places rather too much emphasis on the character of Nanny whom we are led to believe was the driving force in Gabriel's life. Granted there is a lot we do not know about Gabriel's life and the author can create whatever she wants to a certain degree, but the ARC at least is missing one key element: a bibliography/author's note/historical note. Reading the back tells me that the book includes real historical documents but not a single one is noted in the ARC; if outside sources are used they really need to be noted. I have no doubt the author did research of some kind but it needs to be included in the text in this case because it's rather an important part of verifying the historical part from the fiction.

But there are more problems with the book for me. For one, the characterization is very black and white. Even if Gabriel is in the wrong he's hailed as a hero and all of the white characters are painted in some negative way even if they're supposed to be part of the "good" contingent. Furthermore, even without prior knowledge of Gabriel's life, I had a pretty good idea of where the book would end up. The writing is accessible but the plotting is not overly shocking. What you think will happen probably will in some way. There's nothing of a revelation. And as for being a book about what freedom really means, well, it presents the idea but about all I got was that freedom for Gabriel (from the author's point of view) amounts to being able to live his own life with Nanny free of his master.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book for younger readers (12 and up), Gigi Amateau tells the beautiful story of a failed slave rebellion in 1800. The story is largely imagined, and yet it is clearly based on meticulous research, and it sheds light on a historical event with which I was not familiar.

I am not in the habit of reading books aimed at younger readers. This one I read, though, because I know Gigi and because the book is a finalist for the Library of Virginia's People's Choice Award.

Told mostly from the point of view of Gabriel, the leader of the failed rebellion, the story depicts his childhood on a Virginia plantation. It is often the story of betrayal-at the hands of his white playmate who becomes his "master" and his compatriots in the rebellion. But it's also a love story. For me, primarily, it was a history lesson.

I would definitely recommend this book for young readers.
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