Read Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan by Ashley Bryan Online


Newbery Honor Book Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor BookUsing original slave auction and plantation estate documents, Ashley Bryan offers a moving and powerful picture book that contrasts the monetary value of a slave with the priceless value of life experiences and dreams that a slave owner could never take away.Imagine being lookeNewbery Honor Book Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor BookUsing original slave auction and plantation estate documents, Ashley Bryan offers a moving and powerful picture book that contrasts the monetary value of a slave with the priceless value of life experiences and dreams that a slave owner could never take away.Imagine being looked up and down and being valued as less than chair. Less than an ox. Less than a dress. Maybe about the same as…a lantern.You, an object. An object to sell.In his gentle yet deeply powerful way, Ashley Bryan goes to the heart of how a slave is given a monetary value by the slave owner, tempering this with the one thing that CAN’T be bought or sold—dreams. Inspired by the actual will of a plantation owner that lists the worth of each and every one of his “workers”, Bryan has created collages around that document, and others like it. Through fierce paintings and expansive poetry he imagines and interprets each person’s life on the plantation, as well as the life their owner knew nothing about—their dreams and pride in knowing that they were worth far more than an Overseer or Madam ever would guess. Visually epic, and never before done, this stunning picture book is unlike anything you’ve seen....

Title : Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781481456906
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 56 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan Reviews

  • Hannah Greendale
    2019-06-21 07:38

    Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend. In July of 1828, Mrs. Fairchild sold her estate after the death of her husband. The sale of her estate included the appraisal and auction of eleven slaves, listed in simple terms along with a selling price on a real document acquired by the author. With colorful collages made from historical ephemera, and the use of free verse, the author imagines beautiful yet tragic stories for all eleven people who no doubt dreamed of being more than an object sold at auction. Freedom Over Me is frank in its depictions of the callous cruelty of slavery and the thoughtless dehumanization of others that was standard practice before slavery was abolished in America. Wandering the estate woodsreminds me of the woods at home in Africa. Often I re-live that dayour village was raided. My father was killed, my mother and I captured, sold to white slavers. My mother and I survived the dreaded crossing to America. So many others died, crammed in the filthy holds of the vessel. One day slave raidersattacked our village. My parents were killedfighting to protect me. I was captured, enslaved in America. I stood naked, sold on the auction block. All eleven slaves are individually introduced, first as slaves with roles on Mrs. Fairchild's property, then as the joyful, free people they were in Africa prior to being forced into servitude. On the pages where they are introduced as slaves, the backdrop of colors is both muted and pale. On the following page, where their memories of Africa are recounted, the colors are vibrant and bold. It's a subtle but effective means by which to further emphasize the brightness of being a free African versus the dreary life of a slave in America. To teach a slave to readis a crime. Secretly, Jane and I taught each other to read, helped by my hidden Bible. Owners of the slaves think reading would give us ideas for freedom. We know that whether we can read or not, we all want to be free. The document on which the slaves' names are listed appear twice in the book. The first time it's easily overlooked, as the paper is water damaged and worn with flowing cursive script that's difficult to read. The second time is toward the end of the book, where it is conveniently placed beside an inscribed copy, typed out for easy reading. Freedom Over Me goes beyond fictional characters to introduce young readers to a regrettable period in American history. Though the author imagined their stories, Peggy Athelia, Betty, Qush, Jane, Stephen, Mulvina, Bacus, Charlotte, and Dora* are made real and will therefore be remembered. We never lose hopethat we will one day live free.*Note: The book portrays the story of eleven slaves, but only ten are listed on the document. An eleventh slave, John, is not listed but is included in the author's imaginings. Dora's name is also fictional; she is listed alongside Charlotte as nothing more than "child."

  • Betsy
    2019-06-19 13:42

    Who gives voice to the voiceless? What are your credentials when you do so? When I was a teen I used to go into antique stores and buy old family photographs from the turn of the century. It still seems odd to me that this is allowed. I’d find the people who looked the most interesting, like they had a story to tell, and I’d take them home with me. Then I’d write something about their story, though mostly I just liked to look at them. There is a strange comfort in looking at the faces of the fashionable dead. A little twinge of momento mori mixed with the knowledge that you yourself are young (possibly) and alive (probably). It’s easy to hypothesize about a life when you can see that person’s face and watch them in their middle class Sunday best. It is far more difficult when you have no face, a hint of a name, and/or maybe just an age. Add to this the idea that the people in question lived through a man made hell-on-earth. When author/illustrator/artist Ashley Bryan acquired a collection of slave-related documents from the 1820s to the 1860s he had in his hands a wealth of untold stories. And when he chose to give these people, swallowed by history, lives and dignity and peace, he did so as only he could. With the light and laughter and beauty that only he could find in the depths of uncommon pain. Freedom Over Me is a work of bravery and sense. A way of dealing with the unimaginable, allowing kids an understanding that there is a brain, heart, and soul behind every body, alive or dead, in human history.The date on the Fairchilds Appraisement is July 5, 1828. On it you will find a list of goods to be sold. Cows, hogs, cotton . . . and people. Eleven people, if we’re going to be precise (and we are). Most have names. One does not. Just names on a piece of paper almost 200-years-old. So Ashley Bryan, he takes those names and those people, and for the first time in centuries we get to meet them. Here is Athelia, a laundress who once carried the name Adero. On one page we hear about her life. On the next, her dreams. She remembers the village she grew up in, the stories, and the songs. And she is not alone in this. As we meet each person and learn what they do, we get a glimpse into their dreams. We hear their hopes. We wonder about their lives. We see them draw strength from one another. And in the end? The sale page sits there. The final words: “Administered to the best of our Judgment.”I have often said, and I say it to this day, that if there were ever a Church of Ashley Bryan, every last person who has ever met him or heard him speak would be a member. There are only a few people on this great green Earth that radiant actual uncut goodness right through their very pores. Mr. Bryan is one of those few, so when I asked at the beginning of this review what the credentials are for giving voice to the voiceless, check off that box. There are other reasons to trust him, though. A project of this sort requires a certain level of respect for the deceased. To attain that, and this may seem obvious, the author has to care. Read enough books written for kids and you get a very clear sense of those books written by folks who do not care vs. folks that do. Even then, caring’s not really enough. The writing needs to be up to speed and the art needs to be on board. And for this particular project, Ashley Bryan had a stiffer task at hand. Okay. You’ve given them full names and backgrounds and histories. What else do they need? Bryan gives these people something intangible. He gives them dreams. It’s right there in the subtitle, actually: “Eleven slaves, their lives and dreams brought to life.” And so the book is a work of fiction. There is no amount of research that could discover Bacus or Peggy or Dora’s true tales. So when we say that Bryan is giving these people their lives back, we acknowledge that the lives he’s giving them aren’t the exact lives they led. And so we know that each person is a representative above and beyond the names on that page. Hence the occupations. Betty is every gardener. Stephen every architect. Dora every child that was born to a state of slavery and labored under it, perhaps their whole lives. And there is very little backmatter included in this book. Bryan shows the primary documents alongside a transcription of the sales. There is also an Author’s Note. Beyond that, you bring to the book what you already know about slavery, making this a title for a slightly older child readership. Bryan isn’t going to spend these pages telling you every daily injustice of slavery. Kids walk in with that knowledge already in place. What they need now is some humanity.Has Mr. Bryan ever done anything with slavery before? I was curious. I’ve watched Mr. Bryan’s books over the years and they are always interesting. He’s done spirituals as cut paper masterpieces. He’s originated folktales as lively and quick as their inspirational forbears. He makes puppets out of found objects that carry with them a feeling not just of dignity, but pride. But has he ever directly done a book that references slavery? So I examined his entire repertoire, from the moment he illustratedBlack Boy by Richard Wright to Susan Cooper'sJethro and the Jumbie to Ashley Bryan's African Folktales, Uh-Huh and beyond. His interest in Africa and song and poetry knows no bounds, but never has he engaged so directly with slavery itself. Could this have been done as anything but poetry? Or would you even call each written section poetry? I would, but I’ll be interested to see where libraries decide to shelve the book. Do you classify it as poetry or in the history section under slavery? Maybe, for all that it seems to be the size and shape of a picture book, you'd put it in your fiction collection. Wherever you put it, I am reminded, as I read this book, of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! where every lord and peasant gets a monologue from their point of view. Freedom Over Me bears more than a passing similarity to Good Masters. In both cases we have short monologues any kid could read aloud in class or on their own. They are informed by research, and their scant number of words speak to a time we’ll never really know or understand fully. And how easy it would be to turn this book into a stage play. I can see it so easily. Imagine if you turned the Author’s Note into the first monologue and Ashley Bryan his own character (behold the 10-year-old dressed up as him, mustache and all). Since the title of the book comes from the spiritual “Oh, Freedom!” you could either have the kids sing it or play it in the background. And for the ending? A kid playing the lawyer or possibly Mrs. Fairchilds or even Ashley comes out and reads the statement at the end with each person and their price and the kids step forward holding some object that defines them (clothing sewn, books read, paintings, etc.). It's almost too easy.The style of the art was also interesting to me. Pen, ink, and watercolors are all Mr. Bryan (who is ninety-two years of age, as of this review) needs to render his people alive. I’ve see him indulge in a range of artistic mediums over the years. In this book, he begins with an image of the estate, an image of the slaves on that estate, and then portraits and renderings of each person, at rest or active in some way. “Peggy” is one of the first women featured, and for her portrait Ashley gives her face whorls and lines, not dissimilar to those you’d find in wood. This technique is repeated, to varying degrees, with the rest of the people in the book. First the portrait. Then an image of what they do in their daily lives or dreams. The degree of detail in each of these portraits changes a bit. Peggy, for example, is one of the most striking. The colors of her skin, and the care and attention with which each line in her face is painted, make it clear why she was selected to be first. I would have loved the other portraits to contain this level of detail, but the artist is not as consistent in this regard. Charlotte and Dora, for example, are practically line-less, a conscious choice, but a kind of pity since Peggy’s portrait sets you up to think that they’ll all look as richly detailed and textured as she.Those old photographs I once collected may well be the only record those people left of themselves on this earth, aside from a name in a family tree and perhaps on a headstone somewhere. So much time has passed since July 5, 1828 that it is impossible to say whether or not the names on Ashley’s acquired Appraisement are remembered by their descendants. Do families still talk about Jane or Qush? Is this piece of paper the only part of them that remains in the world? It may not have been the lives they led, but Ashley Bryan does everything within his own personal capacity to keep these names and these people alive, if just for a little longer. Along the way he makes it clear to kids that slaves weren’t simply an unfortunate mass of bodies. They were architects and artists and musicians. They were good and bad and human just like the rest of us. Terry Pratchett once wrote that sin is when people treat other people as objects. Ashley treats people as people. And times being what they are, here in the 21st century I’d say that’s a pretty valuable lesson to be teaching our kids today.For ages 6 and up.

  • LaRaie
    2019-06-03 13:37

    This is a fictionalized account of real people who lived as slaves on a real plantation in the American south in the mid 1800's. This book imagines the outer and inner lives of those who worked on the Fairchilds estate. The gorgeous illustrations draw upon each individual's life story as a slave and as a human being apart from their identity of slave--their dreams, emotions, feelings, loves, and fears.As you experience this book, you will begin to understand the weight of what it means to live a life in slavery, to be dehumanized by it, to be taken away from your life as a potter or builder in one part of the world and forced forevermore to work for nothing, to be stripped of your name, humanity, your parents/children, to become an object. This was an emotional read, but not because it even mentions the brutality of slavery at all, but because within the deepest dreams of these people, we understand that what they want most are basic human rights. And even through their enslavement, these people dreamed, loved, and created. They had hope. I found it heart-breaking to find such beauty in this tragedy. Ashley Bryan has made something truly unique. I cannot think of a more important way to spend my time than to imagine and realize the beauty of those who have lived before me, who deserved to but never were allowed to live free. Look at the author/illustrator. Isn't he just beauty incarnate? suggest that everyone read this book.

  • KC
    2019-06-02 11:51

    A mix of artistic illustrations and newspaper print and clippings help tell the stories of the slaves of the Fairchild estate of 1828.

  • Donalyn
    2019-06-08 07:59

    Stunning portrait of the secret lives of eleven enslaved people and their longing for freedom.

  • Adrienne Furness
    2019-06-19 08:32

    Thanks to the Newbery Committee for drawing my attention to this book I'd missed. One of the most affecting picture books I've read in a long while.

  • Barb Middleton
    2019-06-06 11:38

    This captures African culture and universal human desires juxtaposed with slavery. I'm living in South Africa. Last weekend we went to Soweto to see Nelson Mandela's house. A young man wanting money walked us across the street pounding on his chest creating a drumbeat and singing a Soweto welcome song trying to earn some money. The song was fun, joyful, and uplifting. Music is an integral part of this culture. Students break into spontaneous song and dance and any student-centered event includes open mic. A day later I read in this book, "Drums were forbidden./Owners feared that messages could be carried by drum./We used our bodies /to beat out rhythms/Clapping hands, slapping sides/stamping feet." Through free verse Ashley Bryan describes how slaves used talents such as music to ease burdens and help with survival.Bryan is now 93 and still cranking out books and artwork. This tale captures an indefatigable spirit and vibrant culture in an oppressive time as it shows 11 slaves being sold on the Fairfield estate. His illustrations show the face of each slave and the money they are being sold for at an auction. Each slave has unique skills that give them pride and they find freedom in performing each day. The first page explains their skills and situation while the following page has the slave's dreams that contain their given name from Africa and his or her desire for a better future. Slavery was meant to strip blacks of their dignity and demoralize them. The section of each slave's dreams shows their humanity and universal desires that all people have regardless of race. The free verse repeats the words, freedom, dreams, and memorable phrases such as "My knowledge makes me/ hunger for more" and "Learning how to work/ with measurements and tools/ gives me an inner strength." This would be good for class discussions grades 3-5. You could just read part of it if the students get twitchy. The illustrations remind me of woodcuts and some are very detailed while others are not. I read this as an ebook and the format was fine. I can see why it has won three awards.

  • Agnė
    2019-06-03 07:49

    The concept of this picturebook seemed promising: from just a name, gender and price of 11 slaves listed in the Fairchilds Appraisment of the Estate document from July 5, 1828, Ashley Bryan invents the lives and dreams of these objectified people, in such a way giving them back their humanity. (By the way, I HAVE to note that, contrary to the author's note, there are only 10 slaves listed in the document, as a teenage slave named John is completely invented by the author.) Anyways, I guess my expectations were too high, because for me personally, the execution of this idea fell flat.I am not an expert in poetry in any way, but the poems in Freedom Over Me sound kind of simplistic and uninspiring to me. First of all, they are very straightforward, lack lyricism and thus read like prose. Also, the poems are rather repetitive. For example, in some cases the two poems about the same slave's life and dreams lack an expected contrast as they both simply talk about the person's yearning for freedom. In general, none of the poems really stand out to me and, after reading a few, it just seems like I am reading the same thing over and over. This repetitiveness might be due to the fact that the slaves in Freedom Over Me are rather one-dimensional because, apart from having different skill sets, they seem to lack distinctive personalities.I am also not a fan of this particular drawing style (except for the illustration that accompanies the poem "Bacus dreams"):

  • Holly
    2019-06-13 06:53

    Chilling. This is the story of 11 slaves who were owned by the Fairchilds. The first 2 pages made me absolutely ill. And it should for any person, young or old. The first page is in the voice of Mrs. Fairchlds, who has lost her husband. She talks about being so upset and having to sell everything and returning to England, "where I may live without fear, surrounded by my own good British people." And the next page shows the 11 people her family enslaved and how much they're worth, with the most being $400 and the least being $100. That's $100 for a person. The same price of a horse.The rest of the book includes the voices of all of the slaves, they first say what they did for the Fairchilds and the next page describes what they dream to do or to be. At the end of the book, Bryan describes where he got this information and why he wanted to write it. To make these folks human and alive instead of pieces of property.A very important book.

  • Laura Harrison
    2019-06-05 13:57

    Some of Ashley Bryan's most exciting illustrations to date. Informative and incredibly detailed.

  • Jaksen
    2019-06-17 10:49

    Wow, imposing, vibrant and powerful book!The 'story' of eleven slaves - who really existed - and who they might have been, and what their dreams and aspirations could have been, too. After a plantation owner dies, his widow decides to sell off all the property - including the slaves - and return to England. On the auction log the slaves are listed by name - among other property such as cattle, a lot of jin cotton and a handmill - and their monetary value.Just knowing this and thousands of other similar documents exist is frightening enough, a page out of the past which ricochets to this day. Ashley Bryan, the writer, did some research and work imagining what each slave's daily life and routine were, as well as their fears for what was to come. Since these slaves were sold in 1828, only the youngest among them (probably) lived to see emancipation. A quick read but a breathtakingly powerful one. Highly recommended.

  • Meag McKeron
    2019-06-06 11:37

    As a children's librarian I encounter and read countless picture books during my days and I just don't have the energy to rate them all. But then books like Freedom Over Me come along, and you just have to rate them, because if they aren't on Goodreads did you even read them at all?Picture books today certainly don't shy away from the topic of slavery, so now the challenge is discerning which ones address this time in our history best. Bryan does a fantastic job of not only showing what the life of a slave was typically like but of also humanizing them in a way I've never seen before. Seeing the price tag next to each highlighted slave's name and age really hit home how absurd it was that people bought these real, live human beings in the same way they bought animals or tools. Hearing about the way the enslaved people shared their African ancestry with others and the dreams they kept of freedom was both inspiring and heartbreaking. The drawings of each enslaved man or woman also showed just how heavy the load of slavery was on them but also how they kept the faith that one day they would be free. I think this passage sums up the tone and point of the book pretty well:"Secretly, Jane and I taught each other to read,helped by my hidden Bible.Owners of the slaves think reading would give usideas for freedom.We know that whether we can read or not,we all want to be free."

  • Jenny
    2019-06-19 09:32

    This is a beautiful book of poetry. Ashley Bryan was inspired by a real bill of sale for 11 slaves. The bill of sale just lists the slaves' names and price. Bryan took that information and created possible character traits for each of these slaves...their skills and accomplishments, their histories, their families, their loves and dreams. Bryan wrote two poems about each a biographical poem and one a poem about his/her dreams. They were quite powerful.The illustrations are also remarkable. The paintings are detailed and help bring each character to life. It was both touching and heart-wrenching to read of their love for one another, their fear that they would be separated, their desire for freedom, their memories of Africa and their early lives before slavery (for those who were not born into slavery), their unique gifts, joys and sorrows.

  • Josiah
    2019-06-05 10:30

    Here's something you might not know about Freedom Over Me: when it debuted in September 2016, Ashley Bryan was ninety-three years old. I believe he was the oldest author at the time to ever receive Newbery award recognition, but you'd never have guessed it from the book. His artwork is a swirling remembrance of the undying human spirit, evident in every bowed back of a tired slave at work, every defiant glimmer in the eyes of a black man or woman who refuses to allow their soul to become property regardless of who legally owns them. The slaves gaze to the starry sky or golden afternoon sunlight, imagining the life they long to lead, but refuse to let the injustice poison their worldview. Freedom Over Me was inspired by appraisal papers of an actual American estate in 1828. The documents provide rudimentary descriptions of the slaves and other commodities owned by the Fairchilds family, and from these Ashley Bryan imagines each slave's background, coloring them with personality and ambition. The narrative begins after Cado Fairchilds dies, with his widow Mary having their estate appraised for sale. Eleven men, women, and children are priced, a number that will be all the prospective buyers consider except their age. In this book we listen to the dreams that shaped their identities, affirming that the essence of who a person is can never be bought or sold. Peggy is the cook, and Mrs. Fairchilds never hesitated to show off her culinary skills for guests. Peggy is also a medic, who learned which roots and herbs alleviate minor maladies. Forty-eight years old, she remembers life in Africa before slave traders murdered her father and packed her and her mother on a bilgy boat headed for America. She'll never see her mother again, but Peggy has made a life out of nothing in the New World. She uses her knowledge of natural medicine to comfort slaves on the Fairchilds estate, giving them hope that pain isn't forever and reminding herself that she has a purpose in life. "Relieving the aches, the pains, the suffering of the slaves is my chief joy...Mrs. Fairchilds's dinner guests praise my cooking. The praise, however, that touches my heart is to hear the slaves call me Herb Doctor." Who else's affirmation matters when the song you long to hear rings in your ears daily, the sounds of contentedness you made happen with your loving remedies? A healer makes people well, and caring for the slaves is Peggy's passion. Her owners control her life, but not her feelings. In Peggy's heart, she is a free woman. Stephen, age thirty-two, is a carpenter and architect, a source of pride to his owners. He mentors John, an adolescent slave, teaching him woodworking as only a master can. Stephen loves Jane, another slave, and hopes someday to be free and legally marry. Stephen's talents are a wild bird, impossible to cage, an expression of his autonomy. "My owners see me as their property, following their orders, doing their bidding. But through my carpentry I feel the accomplishment and pride of a free man." Not everyone has the good fortune to do as they please, but their labor is a statement that part of them remains free. How can you be enslaved if you work to satisfy yourself, regardless how another man may define it? Jane (age twenty-eight), the seamstress, is as notable in clothing design as Stephen is in carpentry, and their owners take equal pleasure in her work. She and Stephen speak privately of escaping, but the punishment is prohibitive. Jane, too, recalls Africa, the expertise she developed at weaving clothes before her freedom was stolen. "I have grown in artistry through the clothes I create. The praise I receive, I offer as a tribute to my ancestors." Jane would have none of the Fairchildses' adulation, but working for those who are gone is motivation to be a transcendent clothing designer. If John, age sixteen, didn't have Stephen and Jane as surrogate parents, who would care for him? He was born in America, but never knew his mother or father. Stephen and Jane secretly teach him how to read, and the broadening of his mind leads John to realize what he's missing as long as he's captive on the Fairchilds estate. He has much to contribute to society if the system weren't rigged to prevent him doing so. John is an artist who began by drawing pictures in the dirt with sticks. He concealed his art from Mr. and Mrs. Fairchilds, but shows it to the slaves, who take heart in the creations he pours the best of himself into. Who could better understand a slave's art than a slave, the yearning for liberty and validation that simmers beneath the surface? John's art is a window to tomorrow, and the slaves gaze out that window with joy and anticipation. Someday they'll be on the other side of it. Athelia is forty-two, the mansion's laundress. She dresses simply and works hard, assisted by eight-year-old Dora, whom Athelia loves as much as Dora's own mother does. The girl helps Athelia pick fruits and berries for Peggy, and as bad as life in slavery gets, Dora's presence prevents it from being unbearable. She is Athelia's escape from a bleak, bitter existence. "As slaves, we do what our owners expect and demand of us. As human beings, our real lives are our precious secret." Nothing makes life nicer than those pleasures that fulfill us no matter what else is going on. They are the secret to happiness. Athelia also gleans strength from the music of her people, African stories sung to uplift the tired and lonesome. "Through all my years enslaved, I've listened to ancestral voices echoing through my weariness, giving me strength to withstand injustice, to believe in myself and survive. May our songs and stories keep alive in us the will to grow in learning. The longing to be free!" It's a long road ahead for the slaves through bigotry, indifference, and indignity, but retaining their identity as people of culture and beauty is the only way to complete the journey. Someday the suffering will end. Charlotte, age thirty, is Dora's mother. She was a potter and basket weaver in Africa, and does the same for the Fairchilds estate. She's married to Bacus, a household slave, and they adore their daughter. Charlotte and Bacus speak in hushed tones of running away, but what if they were caught? Tales of punishment for delinquent slaves are like gory horror stories. Charlotte doesn't fight her talent, or the glory and wealth it has brought the Fairchildses. "The owners do not know that I use my craft as my way of learning more about myself." They are satisfied and so is she, until the day she can use what she has learned for herself and her family instead of the people who own her. A fancy nineteenth-century estate required a blacksmith, and that's Bacus's role. Thirty-four years old, his work is as fine as anything in the South. Bacus ponders his life with Charlotte and Dora at night under the sparkling stars. Will they escape to lead their own lives? Is freedom worth risking horrific violence against his wife or daughter? Losing them is his nightmare, but now that Mr. Fairchilds is gone and the Mrs. is selling everything, what hope do they have of staying together? These days that are slipping by may be their last together before new owners separate them. How is their family to survive? Qush and Mulvina (both age sixty) have each other, and were lucky to be sold together to the Fairchilds estate from a Louisiana plantation. The African heritage of music is important to every slave at the mansion, but especially Qush and the lady he loves. They sing Bible stories to shore up their courage. If Moses, David, and Jesus endured suffering, Qush and Mulvina can, too. Qush keeps hope flickering among the slaves by crafting basic musical instruments for them, and the joy they bring is immeasurable. When your life is owned by someone else, where do you find satisfaction if not in the little things? What a voice Mulvina has. Singing is her gift, and she leads the slaves in powerful anthems of expectancy, seeing beyond the drab borders of slavery all the way to the promised land. One can easily imagine the scene while reading this book, slaves in the fields at night gradually raising their voices as one, singing "This Little Light of Mine" or "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands". It gives me the chills to think of it. Mulvina has seen hardship and torture in her six decades, but music covers a multitude of horrors, reinvigorating her aging bones. She won't forget the African values that made her who she is. "I've walked a long trail, a long trail of years flushed with tears. Tears of remembrance. Years of driven labor have not driven the ancestral thoughts out of me. My memory of teaching—surrounded by children, singing songs of our people, the stories of our history—lives always with me...Song shields our hearts from abuse, draws us together, strengthens our lives." In every culture our songs and stories bind us closer, a blessing we must never forfeit.The last slave profile is Betty, age thirty-six. She is the flower gardener, but after working during the day to beautify the Fairchilds estate, she makes speeches to the slaves where no one can eavesdrop. Her words are the thread that ties this book together, identifying what's wrong with the picture presented. It isn't evil for a black person's labor to be used by whites. The Fairchilds desired the talents of their slaves because they are artisan specialties not just anyone can duplicate, and that's the problem: if the slaves have wonderful abilities honed over years of practice, why aren't they benefiting? They deserve to offer their services on the open market and profit from them, not be forced to profit others. That's what Betty argues. "I tell my brothers and sisters that it is our special talents, often on loan to others, that has brought renown to the Fairchildses' estate. Our." She goes on. "In recognizing our skills and labor, how can owners say we are property, priced and valued like cotton, cattle, hogs? The owners say we have no history. But we are a people, though enslaved. We remember our African cultures, our traditions, our craftsmanship. Within us lives this knowledge, this undefeated pride. We know we are not slaves." It is their rich traditions from Africa that make the slaves worth having, and prove they deserve their own lives. Betty and the others envision a day when that truth will be accepted, and they can piece together the shattered remains of their former life in Africa into something new in America, lovely in its own way. They'll never regain what was lost, but their future still shines bright. I'm grateful that Freedom Over Me won a Newbery Honor. Otherwise I might not have heard of Ashley Bryan, and to never be acquainted with an author/illustrator of his excellence would be a shame. If you've felt trapped, misunderstood, downtrodden, disrespected, or forgotten, you'll find words in Freedom Over Me to treat your wounds and revive your faith in a future worth looking forward to. I would give the book at least two and a half stars, and I'd consider the full three. I got more out of reading it than I expected. I'll carry these poems with me always.

  • Thomas Bell
    2019-06-26 06:46

    Good easy read. I was very excited about this book being a Newbery prospect and all the EXTREMELY HIGH ratings it has received on Goodreads so far. However, I was slightly disappointed. The stories aren't those of real slaves - just the names of real slaves. Also, it is clear that the stories are meant for a very young audience, so they are quite shallow - even the segments about their dreams. However, the artwork is beautiful. I would highly recommend this book to the Caldecott committee as they tend to like artwork that is both beautiful and a little off-beat. :)

  • Jason
    2019-06-07 09:56

    Bryan turns a document appraising the value of a plantation owners property--including slaves--into a beautiful collection of poems celebrating each of the individuals listed on the document. He gives them names, ages, and jobs--and memories, relationships, and dreams. It is a powerful reminder that slaves weren't just statistics but real people with histories and personalities.

  • Marcie
    2019-06-13 06:47

    I'll be very surprised if this does not garner a Coretta Scott King Award. However the illustrations are amazing, so it probably is also getting some Caldecott buzz. I found it emotional, yet easy reading.

  • Mary Lee
    2019-06-10 07:42

    Wow. Working from an estate sale document from 1828, Ashley Bryan brings to life the 11 slaves listed as property. He gives them names, African cultures, talents, and dreams. Written in powerful free verse with stunning illustrations, this book will start rich conversations.

  • Emma
    2019-05-29 05:55

    This did give a window into the lives of slaves which I appreciate, but I was not impressed by the poetry. I wish that the voices of the different slaves were more distinct. They all bled together for me and after the first couple started to read like a fill in the blank questionnaire: name, age, job, connection to other characters in the book, memories of Africa, dream for the future. Switching up the order of the questionnaire or revisiting some of the characters after reading others' stories would have helped to diversify the reading experience and create more investment in the characters.

  • Barbara
    2019-06-24 06:33

    How do we determine the value of a man, a woman or a child? Aren't all humans worth the same thing or are those whose skills or attributes somehow make them more worthy than others? This extraordinary picture book raises those questions and answers them as they might have been answered prior to the Civil War. After her husband dies, Mary Fairchilds consolidates his estate, and prepares to sell the plantation's slaves, first having their value appraised. In separate poems, each of the eleven slaves in her possession ruminates on his/her past, present, and future. Images of each of the characters appear on one page facing their thoughts about their hard lives while a second page offers up their dreams, aspirations for a brighter future, made possible with their skills and a little bit of luck. Thus, readers quickly realize that someone as young as John, 16, and Qush, 60, whose work with animals was once valued but who has passed his prime in the eyes of others, are not as valuable as Charlotte, 30, with her daughter and ability to weave baskets. Relying on actual documents listing the appraisement of these human beings, considered property in 1828, the author imagines what their lives might have been like on that plantation and captures the dreams that keep them hoping and lend them resilience. Far from being content with their lot, these men and women imagine turning their skills into pursuits that will be lucrative and possibly change their lives. They all dream of freedom in some shape or fashion. Pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations and collaged photoreproductions of archival documents fill the book's pages. For those today who struggle to understand what slavery might have been like, Ashley Bryan offers a glimpse into the hearts and minds of those who kept the plantation running and its owners thriving, all on the fruit of their labors and talents. I can only imagine the hours the author-illustrator was haunted by the voices that came to him, asking that he tell their stories as he has so effectively and so eloquently. Not only does the book raise questions and ask readers to question what they know of history, but the front cover is visually stunning with thumbnail sketches of the 11 individuals highlighted in the book placed inside a ring of chains and a lovely painting of the Fairchilds Estate on the back cover with no one in sight.

  • Kate
    2019-06-05 12:00

    A nice book that tries to depict the dreams, personalities, and aspirations of a group of slaves from a Southern US estate.

  • Camille
    2019-06-20 07:46

    I loved how this books seemed like a story, but also had a historical fiction/ informational side to it. My favorite charecter had to be Dora and her family because they would sing to all of the other slaves to keep their hopes and personality's up.

  • Ava Pratt
    2019-06-23 09:47

    This book is written by explaining what the slaves do everyday. Then, the slaves explained what they dreamed of doing. This is a very touching story, about how slaves were treated. I gave this book 3 stars because of the way it was written.

  • Kacie
    2019-06-08 13:56

    This book was really inspiring and sad. If you are interested in slavery this book would be good for you. At the end you feel sad inside knowing people were sold and stuff like that.

  • Janet
    2019-06-17 12:53

    They entire time I read this beautiful book, I pictured Ashley Bryan leading us all in reciting poetry with him when he spoke at USBBY in St. Louis. He is a national treasure, as are his books.

  • Becky
    2019-06-24 07:33

    First sentence: I mourn the passing of my husband, Cado Fairchilds. He managed our estate alone. Eleven Negro slaves, they carried out the work that made our estate prosper. Premise/plot: After the death of her husband, Mrs. Fairchilds decides to sell her estate--all of her estate including eleven slaves--and return to Britain. The eleven slaves were: Peggy, John, Athelia, Betty, Qush, Jane, Stephen, Mulvina, Bacus, Charlotte and Dora. What you should know: Ashley Bryans, the author and illustrator, was inspired to write this picture book by slave documents he'd acquired. This estates appraisal dates from 1828. This picture book is written almost exclusively in verse. The book begins with Mrs. Fairchilds poem, her reasoning as to why she's selling the slaves and leaving the South. The remaining poems are all from the point of view of the eleven slaves. Each slave gets two poems. One poem for how things are; one poem for their dreams, how they want things to be. From John: Secretly, Stephen and Jane are teaching me to read and write. They say, "We'll be free one day! And you will teach others." My thoughts of escaping to freedom grow stronger every day. Oh Freedom, Oh Freedom, Oh Freedom over me!From John Dreams: I plan one day to draw freely from free Negro people. I will create loving portraits of their strength and beauty. You should also know that this is a Newbery Honor book, a Coretta Scott King Author Honor book, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book.My thoughts: Freedom Over Me is worth reading no matter your age. (By that I mean you're never too old to read a 'children's book.' You can definitely be too young for a book, but never too old.) It would pair well with Julius Lester's Day of Tears--if memory serves--or his To Be A Slave. This is such compelling, emotional book.

  • Jill
    2019-05-31 08:34

    The author reports in an Afterword that he came across a collection of slave-related documents that included an “estate sale” of eleven slaves (along with cows, hogs, and cotton). Since the slaves were only referred to by gender and age, he decided he wanted to create stories for them and give them voices.He introduces each slave by a picture he has imagined of the slave, noting his or her age and price. Then he envisions the slaves, in free-verse first-person narrative, describing the roles the might have played on the estate. The next page after each introduction imagines the dreams of that slave, which are in stark contrast to what a slave is allowed to do, and which always end with the dream of freedom. Athelia, for example, explains that she is the laundress for the Fairchild’s estate and she works “from dawn to dusk, in rain, cold, stifling heat.” Sometimes she has to do more: “As slaves, we do what our owners expect and demand of us.” But she adds, “As human beings, our real lives are our precious secret.” Then she tells of her dreams of the songs and stories of her past in Africa, and of her longing to be free.Bacus, who works with metals on the estate, has a wife and daughter. Now that they are all up for sale, he is terrified his family will be broken up: “I hardly sleep nights. I have terrible thoughts of separation. Powerless to keep my family together.” He dreams of respect, justice, and of course, freedom.Each of the eleven slaves is given a voice in this book.The author/illustrator has won Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award among other accolades. He uses brightly colored drawings and mixed media that he has said draw upon African-American spirituals, poetry, and folklore.Evaluation: Bryan found an excellent way to show both the harsh realities of slaves, and the ways in which they might have realized some joy through their families, their friends, their memories, and their hopes.

  • Ben Sirois
    2019-06-03 05:37

    Not a bad book, I give it a four out of five. I like how Ashley Bryan did little stories about different slaves. She gave a great† example of what life was like, but not only did she do just that she also did it in such little paragraphs. I recommend this book to all those interested in the Civil War and slavery era.

  • Nancy Kotkin
    2019-05-27 13:30

    Wow. This picture book is simultaneously heart-wrenching and powerfully hopeful. And isn't that the mark of great literature and art? I will be processing the emotions evoked by this book for a long time to come.Sadly, it's much too long for a story-time read-aloud, but it would make a great group activity with character roles assigned to different group participants. You could also design a whole teaching unit around this book, with supplemental materials, about the different topics raised in the poems (i.e. life in pre-Civil-War-era South, how/why slavery laws were passed/maintained, the idea of "ownership" and how that relates to people and their labor, the power of reading and education and why it was so feared by plantation owners, family/friendship bonds within slave groups, specializations among slaves, sustaining one's native culture in a foreign and hostile environment, religion and spirituality among slaves, and so much more). I plan to use this book in my children's creative writing workshop and see what comes out of it.I anticipate another Coretta Scott King Award in Ashley Bryan's future; this is his best work yet. But if we are now considering picture books for the Newbery, this is a worthy candidate.

  • Angie
    2019-06-09 05:38

    Ashley Bryan really should be a national treasure if he isn't already. Freedom Over Me is the story of 11 slaves belonging to the Fairchilds. Mr. Fairchild has died and Mrs. Fairchild is returning to England and selling off everything in America. Bryan bought a collection of slave documents and one of them was the appraisal for the Fairchild property. It includes a list of their slaves as well as livestock and various equipment. Ashley Bryan took this one page piece of paper and created the lives and stories of 11 slaves. He gave them ages and occupations and dreams. He told their stories through beautiful illustrations and poetry. My one issue with this book is the actual appraisal itself. It only lists 10 slaves. John, age 16, isn't listed on the appraisal so I am going to assume Bryan made him up. This actually brought my enjoyment of this book down a bit. All the rest of the slaves were actual people even if Bryan created their stories. I am not sure why one was invented but I wish he hadn't been.