Reviews for Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life

by Asheley Bryan

School Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Gr 4-6-Using real documents from an estate appraisal dated July 5, 1828, Bryan has created beautiful portrait paintings for 11 people who were named and priced as property on the Fairchildses' estate (the documents are reproduced fully in the endpapers and in segments throughout the work). Relying on narrative poetry to explore each figure's inner and outer life, Bryan gives voice to their history, their longing for freedom, and their skills as artisans, cooks, musicians, carpenters, etc. Each person has two visual portraits, with each accompanied by a poem (on the opposite page). Collaged historical documents of slave auctions fill the negative space of the first portrait frame. The second portrait depicts that person in a private dream, often a dream for safety, family, community, or the freedom to create. Peggy, a self-taught expert herbalist and cook for the Fairchildses, knows that although she works hard, everything goes to the estate. She dreams of her Naming Day ceremony and her parents calling to her, "Mariama! Mariama!" Each portrait reflects the role of song, call-and-response, ceremony, spirituality, community, and griots in living a double life-doing what was demanded while keeping close in their hearts the "precious secret," the constant yearning for freedom. Expertly crafted, these entries will deeply resonate with readers. Referenced in the poems are slave independence in Haiti, the drinking gourd, the North Star, and songs such as "Oh, by and By," "This Little Light," and "Oh Freedom." VERDICT A significant contribution to U.S. and African American history that will elicit compassion and understanding while instilling tremendous pride. A must-purchase for all collections.-Teresa Pfeifer, The Springfield Renaissance School, MA Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Using a document from 1828 that lists the value of a U.S. landowner's 11 slaves, Bryan (Sail Away) creates distinct personalities and voices for each, painting their portraits and imagining their dreams. He starts with the wife of the slave owner, who felt her husband was good to their slaves ("He never hired an overseer"). But it's quickly clear that "good" slave ownership is an oxymoron: "I work hard-all profit to the estate," their cook Peggy observes. Bryan shows that the enslaved had secret lives of their own: "Years ago blacksmith Bacus and I/ 'jumped the broom'-/ the slave custom for marriage. No legal form for slaves." They cherish their traditions, call each other by their African names ("I am Bisa, 'Greatly Loved'?"), dream of escape, and long for freedom. His portraits show the men, women, and children gazing out at readers, the contours of their faces traced as if carved from wood, while strong rhythmic outlines mimic stained glass, echoing the sense of sacred memory. There are few first-person accounts of slaves, and these imagined words will strike a chord with even the youngest readers. Ages 6-10. (Sept.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


School Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Gr 4-6-Documents related to an 1828 estate sale that included, along with hogs and cows, the names and prices of 11 individuals, were the genesis of this tribute to the lives, talents, and community of generations of those who were treated as property and whose humanity was disregarded. Bryan's expressive portrait art allows readers to peer into the faces of these men and women, while his poems unmask their hopes and aspirations. Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* Inspired by a document appraising the value of 11 enslaved people (along with livestock and cotton) in an estate for sale in the antebellum South, this exceptional book presents the imagined faces and voices of individuals whose society, against all reason, regarded them as less than human. Each person appears in a four-page section, opening with a page of free-verse text opposite a riveting head-and-shoulders portrait with a grim collage background of slavery-related documents. A banner reveals the person's appraised value, master-imposed slave name, and age. In the text, these individuals introduce themselves, their roles on the estate, and the skills (cooking, blacksmithing, sewing) they take pride in. On the second double-page spread, a verse text offers more personal reflections on their African roots, their love of family, and their dreams, while a more detailed, colorful painting expresses their heritage, their strength, and their rich inner lives. Their humanity shines through, showing the tragedy of their status and the gross absurdity of assigning prices to people. Longing for freedom is a constant theme, made all the more poignant by the appraisal document's date: 1828, decades before emancipation. Clean and spare, the verse brings the characters to life, while in the radiant artwork, their spirits soar. Rooted in history, this powerful, imaginative book honors those who endured slavery in America.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2016 Booklist

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