Thursday, April 12, 2012

Book Review: A Voice for Kanzas by Debra McArthur

A Voice for Kanzas by Debra McArthur
Publisher: Kane Miller
Publication Date:  March 1st, 2012
ISBN:  978-1-61067-044-9
Genre:  Young Adult / Middle Grade historical fiction
Author Links:  Goodreads        Blog
Book Synopsis:  Lucy Catherine Thomkins was looking for poetry when she slipped the booklet from Papa’s coat pocket and discovered Information for Kanzas Immigrants. Just another political paper, nothing a thirteen-year-old poet would be interested in. But before dinner is over that night, Lucy becomes one those immigrants. She feels as out of place in 1855 Kansas Territory as the sky-blue silk gown she has worn for the journey from Pennsylvania, and she seeks her own purpose in this strange place. Papa is committed to the cause of abolitionism, and Mamma is committed to the success of the family’s general store. Even her brother, ten-year-old Joseph, seems to embrace this new life, despite the threats of the Border Ruffians who harass the citizens of Lawrence. When Lucy discovers that her best friend’s family is working with the Underground Railroad, Lucy must make a decision which could have dangerous consequences for herself and her family. She must decide just what she stands for, and she must find her own true voice to express herself in a time and place where a young girl’s voice is seldom valued.
My thoughts:  Lucy, a young aspiring poet, was uprooted from her home in Pennsylvania when her family emigrated to the Kanzas Territory.  She had to build a new life, new friends, new school, a whole new life.  She now had to face challenges that were she was protected from in her old life.  She was now more directly involved in the Free States movement and the Underground Railroad - or as called in this story - the Liberty Line.  Every decision she made had an impact on others she loved.

I found A Voice for Kanzas to be very moving.  I could not imagine being so young and having to face all the challenges that were thrown at Lucy.  All Lucy wanted was to write poetry, not travel as a immigrant, but she did not realize just what a new role that poetry would have in her new life.  Her old teacher gave her a journal to continue her writing.  Her new teacher told her she needed to find her voice.  By the end of the book, Lucy did in deed find her voice.  

Lucy, a 13 year old girl, is probably one of the strongest child characters I have read in quite some time.  You see her growing throughout the the story. She goes from being an innocent to becoming a very responsible, informed, courageous young lady.  She helps her family with their new family store, and with her new best friend, assists those that travel the Liberty Line to freedom.  You witness her changes and her grown through her poetry that is strategically placed throughout the book.

The book provides a unique look at the time period leading up to the Civil War.  So much content presented in a non-challenging way about pro-slavery and the free states endevour, enable readers to learn without much effort. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction, and especially to classroom teachers for its content. 

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