Author: Joseph Slate
Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Audience: Grades 3-6
Summary: This is the story of a young man who is a slave and wants to be free more than anything in the world. The “Big Man” overseer has placed an ankle collar on the young man and freedom becomes tied up in his efforts to take the collar off. As the story moves to its conclusion, freedom comes to the man through love and not through force or personal effort.
Literary elements at work in the story: This is a touching story of slavery and love set in the south, most likely prior to the Civil War as told by a narrator. The setting is what we would assume to be a typical plantation where slaves are tightly controlled by the overseer. The plot is based on the escape of the young slave and the chance involvement of a young black orphan. The illustrations demonstrate emotion through both light and dark shading.
Perspective on gender, race, culture, economic, ability: The focus of the story is on the submission of the slave population and the domination of the overseer. The overseer is not overtly illustrated as white, just in control and mean which allows the audience to discuss who they feel the oppressor might be. The story focuses on the dreams of a young man but the death of the child’s mother who was also trying to escape, allows gender to remain neutral. The oppression allows for discussion of total domination including economic limitations.
Scripture: Galatians 3:28-29; Genesis 1:27
Theology: We are all the same in God’s eyes.
- What did it mean to be a slave during the time period the book portrays and how would you have felt if you had been a slave?
- Why do you think it was so hard for the people in the south at that time to free their slaves?
- Would you be willing to set your dream aside to help someone else?
Review prepared by Jim Collins, MACE, Entering Cohort Fall 2007
I Want to Be Free by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.