Winner of the 2023 Newbery Medal

Debut author Amina Luqman-Dawson pens a lyrical, accessible historical middle-grade novel about two enslaved children’s escape from a plantation and the many ways they find freedom.

Under the cover of night, twelve-year-old Homer flees Southerland Plantation with his little sister Ada, unwillingly leaving their beloved mother behind. Much as he adores her and fears for her life, Homer knows there’s no turning back, not with the overseer on their trail. Through tangled vines, secret doorways, and over a sky bridge, the two find a secret community called Freewater, deep in the swamp.

In this society created by formerly enslaved people and some freeborn children, Homer finds new friends, almost forgetting where he came from. But when he learns of a threat that could destroy Freewater, he crafts a plan to find his mother and help his new home.

Deeply inspiring and loosely based on the history of maroon communities in the South, this is a striking tale of survival, adventure, friendship, and courage. ----from the publisher

416 pages                                    978-0316056618                                 Ages 8-12

Keywords:  historical fiction, slavery, freedom, 19th century, running away, brother and sister, Diversity: Resilience and Oppression, African American and Black stories, friends, adventure, courage, grit, friends, friendship, prejudice and racism, 8 year old, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old, Newbery Medal


What do you do when it's your fault your mother turned and went back to the plantation where your whole family has been enslaved?  What do you do when it's your arrow that lit the cornfields with fire?

Mistakes.... we all make mistakes.  But these young people, African Americans, are carrying stories they need to transform and heal.  Homer and Ada took off with Mama that night running as fast as they could to escape the horrors of slavery on the Southerland Plantation.  Then Mama turned back and the two children were desperately finding their own way with the sounds of the men and dogs ringing through the forest as they got closer and closer.

"Forest river vines and bush, watch for the sinkhole, more vines and bush, green water, tree boat, lily pads, secret water door" is the path they took and it's the path Mama will have to take to find them.

How to you survive in the wild?  How do you survive when you are a slave?  How do you survive when you aren't what your mother wants you to be?

Part adventure, part history and part the thrill of meeting characters who are made out of bravery even though they bring broken parts of themselves to the challenges they will face.  It takes a team of amazing, creative people who support each other to live in an alien world where they have a taste of freedom.

Do you want to fly?  Do you know the feeling of a world where the sucking mud is pulling you down deeper and deeper?  Can you imagine meeting strangers in a swampy mire who are covered in vines and leaves and mud and who know how to use a sling or a bow and arrow with great skill?

This is a story about love and about heart. This is a story about African Americans searching for a world where they can breathe and become.  Truly one of a kind.

Recommended by:  Barb Langridge,

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