3 out of 4 stars
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Costly Freedom is a children’s historical fiction book by Terry Webb. It is set in Marietta, Georgia in the trying period after the Civil War.
Twelve-year old Sam and his family return to Marietta, their hometown, after two years in exile. Upon returning, they see first-hand the drastic changes that have swept over their hometown. Slaves are free and have been given land of their own. Sam's best friend Albert, whose family his parents had previously owned, triumphantly tells him how he is now free, cannot be owned, and can grow up to be whatever he wants to be. Best of all, he can now attend school and learn. Unfortunately, the victory freed slaves have is marred by the after-effects of the Civil War. Starvation is rampant. Bitterness from former-slave owners is widespread. Sam and Albert soon learn how heavy a cost is attached to freedom.
Costly Freedom is easy to read – as it should be because it is intended for children. A great feature was the class activities that teachers could work through with their learners after reading the book. The questions contained in the activities are perfect for getting children to reflect on the thinking and attitudes that steer intolerance and prejudice. This, coupled with the example of one of the characters, Will, can help children to be aware of the toxic effects that bitterness can have on people. I thought it was great that Will was used to convey this lesson as he is about the same age as Sam and Albert. I think children will most likely be better able to assess the behaviour and thinking of someone who is in their age group.
The only thing I dislike about the book is that I first had to go research the time period in question before I could understand some of the events and references made. In my opinion, it is important that a historical fiction book lays out the historical background to the necessary extent without becoming academic. This book contained some important background, but I wish background was given on the Confederate States and what they stood for. This would have helped me to understand why Sam’s father was exiled and what he truly believed. As a result, I could not decide how he truly felt about certain matters.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. I feel children could benefit from reading it. It has been well edited and contains very few errors. Thus, I rate it 3 out of 4 stars. If more historical context and background was given, I would give it a perfect rating.
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