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06 March 2011

Book Review: Seeds of America (Chains and Forge)

Chains (Seeds of America, #1)Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Laurie Halse Anderson came to our local children's bookstore and I went to hear her speak.  She was an unassuming personage, more like a gal you'd run into at the Target than a highly-acclaimed author.  But her passion for this era of our history was palpable; her inner brilliance showed in her eyes and her voice as she talked about how her whole life changed when she discovered that Benjamin Franklin owned slaves. And she wanted to write about it.  For kids.  Because kids need to know about our spotted history; to learn the story that they don't learn in school.  And, also, she hates Johnny Tremain.

The result is the Seeds of America series, a complex but age-appropriate set of young adult books that looks at the Revolutionary War through the eyes of a Loyalist’s slave (Chains), as well as a male slave conscripted into the army on his owner's behalf (Forge).

As Anderson says in her Author’s Note at the end of Chains, “you really can’t look at this through good guy/bad guy glasses" and, truly, there are no characters that are pure; all the good guys have bad instincts sometimes and some of the bad guys have good instincts.  Sometimes.

Anderson writes with aplomb and, though the books suffer a bit from plots that force characters to be in the shadow of documented history, the story is so compelling, the writing so masterful, that this reader didn't really care.

One of the blurbs on the back of Chains says it "knocks on the conscience of a nation."   Indeed.

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