Thursday, September 24, 2009

John Brown: His Fight For Freedom John Hendrix

John Brown : His Fight for Freedom by John Hendrix - This is the story of John Brown, a White abolitionists who was so opposed to slavery he tried to start an uprising. Going into this book I knew nothing about John Brown. Hendrix has written a great introduction to John Brown for young readers and adults alike. One thing I appreciate and look for a children's biography, is how smoothly authors can supply definition into the text without breaking the rhythm. Hendrix does this skillfully throughout the novel beginning with the first page.
Hendrix begins in 1840 when John Brown was living in the free state of Ohio. Hendrix tells of Brown's respect and friendships with his Black neighbors. The author quickly establishes the type of person Brown was. Brown gives his front pew to his Black neighbors.

"He stood and offered the entire black section his front pew. He escorted them to the best seats in the house, as his family went to sit in their seats in the back pew, behind the wood stove! At the end of the service, the white church members were very angry and demanded that John and his family leave the church immediately"

That passage tells me alot about Brown. Many Whites in Hudson were against slavery but didn't believe in equal rights. Brown offering up his pew shows that he wasn't the average White abolitionist.

"Upon reading these words, John felt a tremendous force growing inside his chest. He would never forget the day he discovered these words; it was then he mad an oath to fight slavery until its very roots were destroyed. So John began to formulate a plan of grand liberation. This plan would not free one man at a time it would free thousands"

After that declaration biography picks up a bit. In 1847 Brown meets with Fredrick Douglass to explain his plan to end slavery forever. In 1854 pro slavery and abolitionist were fighting for control over Kansas and Nebraska. The abolitionist were not prepared for armed slave owners. Brown fought hard in Kansas.

Another thing I look for and appreciate in children's biography is how much truth will the author give without sugar. Again, Hendrix succeeds. He doesn't gloss over or ignore Brown storming the house of pro slavery settlers with his sons and killing them at a creek.

Brown plan to end slavery begin with raiding Harpers Ferry, Virginia. It was the home of large federal armory and a symbol of Southern power. John Brown raided Harpers Ferry on October 17, 1859 with 21 men. Brown's attempt was unsuccessful. Hendrix tells the reader of the events of that day and how Brown's heart may have lead to his failure. John Brown is captured, and once again Hendrix keeps it sugar free, showing Brown's sentence of death by hanging. Hendrix illustrations make Brown larger than life and I think its very fitting. He give us the many faces of John Brown; compassion, determination, anger and worry.

This is a wonderful biography. It was a pleasure not to read more of the same. Hendrix has made John Brown a controversial figure in history accessible to young readers.

Due check out the review over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast , where they break down the illustrations of children's books like nobody's business. They share some of the books interior which is a must see.


Bam-Bam said...

Awesome! John Brown was badazz! I only know a little about him (Harper's Ferry, etc) but I should read some more.

Doret said...

I knew nothing about John Brown until I read this. Toni, shook her head at my lack of knowledge.