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The Freedom Business

By: Marilyn Nelson

Illustrator: Deborah Dancy

Venture Smith's autobiography, a slave narrative first published in 1798, appears on the left-hand pages of this volume. Smith was the son of a Guinean prince, then slave to various American men, and eventually a free man-owner of one hundred acres of land and three houses. Juxtaposed with and inspired by his story are Marilyn Nelson's poems, which appear on the right-hand pages. Watercolor, ink, collage, and acrylic paintings illustrate both the narrative and the poems. Includes a preface to the poems and an artist's note.

ISBN: 9781932425574

JLG Release: Jan 2009


Sensitive Areas: Language: Mild Language
Topics: Venture Smith (ca , 1729-1805) , Polygamy , Marital discord , Guardians , Kindness , Reunions , Invaders , Tribute , Trust , Lies , Capture , Torture , Resistance , Slavers , Names , Small pox , Cruelty , Escape , Double-crosses , Beatings , Swindles , Freedom , Money , Thrift , Death , Trade shipping , Land ownership , Growing old

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Awards & Honors

Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Book of 2008

Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Booklist*, The Horn Book Magazine, The Horn Book Guide^, Kirkus Reviews*, School Library Journal

Horn Book

Nelson partners the 1798 autobiography of ex-slave Venture Smith (reproduced on the book's left-hand pages) with twenty-five free- and formal-verse poems inspired by particular moments from his life. The poems bring expanding emotionalism to Smith's dignified, stolid, factual account. Dancy's subtly tinted paintings are suggestive and atmospheric r Nelson partners the 1798 autobiography of ex-slave Venture Smith (reproduced on the book's left-hand pages) with twenty-five free- and formal-verse poems inspired by particular moments from his life. The poems bring expanding emotionalism to Smith's dignified, stolid, factual account. Dancy's subtly tinted paintings are suggestive and atmospheric rather than literal, and the whole has an understated power.

Junior Library Guild

Venture Smith was, as Marilyn Nelson puts it in her preface, “a man caught up in a nightmare of history who nevertheless managed to retain his fundamental decency, humanity, and self-respect . . . who rose above the limitations imposed by racist economics to achieve unparalleled economic success.” That Smith not only succeeded, but thrived, is Venture Smith was, as Marilyn Nelson puts it in her preface, “a man caught up in a nightmare of history who nevertheless managed to retain his fundamental decency, humanity, and self-respect . . . who rose above the limitations imposed by racist economics to achieve unparalleled economic success.” That Smith not only succeeded, but thrived, is inspiring. Readers will be eager to learn just how Smith managed his triumph.

Nelson expounds upon the themes of hard work, determination, racism, and family that fill Smith's tale. Smith did not reflect much on the events of his life-he wrote to record, not to analyze. Nelson's poetry fills in these gaps, as though her poems are Smith's interior monologue. Smith wrote, "I went and called at my old master Stanton's first to see my wife, who was then owned by him. As my old master appeared much ruffled at my being there, I left my wife before I had spent any considerable time with her." Nelson writes, "Can't take her home with me, where she belongs, / to warm my room with her smile, my pillow with her cheek. / She and our chilfren; owned. (God must bear wrongs / like a strong black man pretending to be meek.)"

Deborah Dancy's earth-toned, atmosperic painting enhance Nelson and Smith's writing, with recurring images-broken lines, blood-like spatters-that evoke elements of the slave experience. Nelson's poetry and Dancy's painting demonstrate how art is often inspired by real events or even by other artwork. Their examples will increase readers' appreciation and understanding of the creative process.

Book Details

ISBN

9781932425574

First Release

January 2009

Genre

Autobiography; biographical poetry.

Dewey Classification

811/.54

Trim Size

6" x 10"

Page Count

72

Accelerated Reader

Level 6.9; Points: 2;

Scholastic Reading Counts

Level 11.4; Points: 5;

Lexile

Level 1200L

Format

Print Book

Edition

-

Publisher

Wordsong

Potentially Sensitive Areas

Language: Mild Language

Topics

Venture Smith (ca, 1729-1805), Polygamy, Marital discord, Guardians, Kindness, Reunions, Invaders, Tribute, Trust, Lies, Capture, Torture, Resistance, Slavers, Names, Small pox, Cruelty, Escape, Double-crosses, Beatings, Swindles, Freedom, Money, Thrift, Death, Trade shipping, Land ownership, Growing old,

Standard MARC Record

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Cover Art

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