Seven Miles to Freedom:
The Robert Smalls Story
By Janet Halfmann
Illustrated by Duane Smith
Ages 6+, Picture Book, softcover
JANET TAKES YOU INSIDE THE BOOK! Click here for the video.
Best Children's Books of the Year: Bank Street College of Education
Honor Book: Society of School Librarians International
Honor Book: 2009 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People
Starred Review: Kirkus Reviews
Editor's Favorites: The Bloomsbury Review
Land of Enchantment Masterlist: New Mexico Library Association
Beehive Book Awards Nominee: Children's Literature Association of Utah
Reading Circle Program: Missouri State Teachers Association
Seven Miles to Freedom tells the story of Robert Smalls, the enslaved wheelman of a cotton boat turned Confederate gunboat, named the Planter. Smalls, with the rest of the enslaved crew, stole the ship right from under the noses of the Confederates. With the crew's families hidden below deck and Robert disguised as the captain, the ship steamed past several forts in Charleston Harbor, giving the correct signals. At the harbor's entrance seven miles away, the group found freedom within Union lines.
I was inspired to write Seven Miles to Freedom while researching African American achievements during the Civvil War. "What a gripping adventure!" I thought, as I read about how Robert Smalls stole a Confederate steamboat right from under the noses of the Confederates and delivered it to the Union Navy. I was sure young readers would be as spellbound by his daring escape to freedom as I was. And at the same time, they would learn the story of an important African American hero seldom found in history books.
Afterword and Author's Sources at end of book
"The daring Civil War escape of a slave, his crew and their families in a stolen Confederate supply boat receives appropriately inspirational treatment in this new picture book . . . Smith, a newcomer to picture books, sketches out scenes and characters with broad daubs of oil, creating a sculptural effect that heightens the monumental nature of Smalls's deed. Page turns and textual pacing combine to relate the actual escape with pulse-pounding excitement; readers' relief at Smalls's success is almost physical. A triumph."—Kirkus Reviews
"This book is an excellent vehicle to bring [Smalls's] story to a wider audience . . . . The oil paintings employ thick, bold strokes and deep saturated colors to convey Smalls's strength and determination in successfully delivering his and his crew's family members to freedom."—Publishers Weekly