03 May 2009

Chains; Laurie Halse Anderson

Chains Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars

For a few years now, our 6th graders have read Lester's Day of Tears and done a project on slavery. Part of the project is to decide what type of slave you were; the kids get the difference between house and field, city and plantation... but Northern and Southern? Not really. When I tell them that there were slaves in New York City, they think I'm kidding. After all, wasn't the Civil War fought against the slave-owning South?

In Rinaldi's The Color of Fire and now Anderson's Chains, students can learn that yes, indeed, there were slaves in the Northern states.

The story itself is relatively predictable: a slave promised freedom doesn't always get it, not all slave owners are horrible (but some are), not all non-slave owners are good (but some are), not all slaves help other slaves (but some do), etc.. Isobel/Sal can read and write (rare for a slave, but it helps move the story along), yet her internal monologue's voice belies her reading Paine's Common Sense. There are times that she, and the other characters, just don't ring true to themselves or to their era. And, of course, the fact that the last page advertises the sequel means that rather than imagining the ending (much as one does in a book like The Giver) you have to wait and read the next book. If there were to be a sequel, I'd have wanted it to be a surprise - it might have made for better conversations with students.

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1 comment:

  1. I was a bit lukewarm on this myself, but one of our 8th grade history teachers really, really liked it. Since her class is doing a historical fiction project, we'll see how the students like it.