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Forty Acres And Maybe A Mule [Hardcover]

Harriette Gillem Robinet
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 1 1998 Aladdin Historical Fiction

Could it be true? Pascal's runaway brother was back saying they were free! The slaves had been freed by President Lincoln! And besides, Gideon said, they could have forty acres of land and maybe a mule just for the asking. Gideon said land meant freedom.

That night Pascal, twelve, and his friend Nelly, eight, ran away with Gideon. They were going to get a farm. They had to hide lest they be taken back into slavery. Also, land didn't seem as easy to find as Gideon had thought. What did it mean if you had to run and hide, if you were crippled and couldn't do what others did?

Joined by other former slaves, Pascal, Gideon, and Nelly did find a farm. They even found a school that Pascal and Nelly could attend. They learned about dignity and the Freedmen's Bureau and the Union League and the Republicans. But they also discovered it was not easy for former slaves to stay free and to keep their land.

Based on the author's research about events in the South in 1865, this is the story of what might have happened to one small group of African Americans.

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From Publishers Weekly

In this novel set in April through September of 1865, Robinet's (The Twins, the Pirates, and the Battle of New Orleans) resilient characters lend immediacy to the early events of Reconstruction. Orphaned 12-year-old Pascal is a slave at the Big House on a South Carolina plantation when his runaway brother Gideon, a Union soldier, returns, proclaiming that Lincoln has freed the slaves and General Sherman has promised 40 acres and maybe a mule for both blacks and whites. Pascal, his friend Nelly and Gideon set off in search of a Freedmen's Bureau (where land is deeded) and finally find one in Georgia. Along the way they encounter other former slaves, two of whom they "adopt" as family; poor white farmers (among them the Bibbs family who become neighbors, and with whom they begin a moving friendship); night riders and Republican operatives eager to recruit new voters. Robinet compellingly demonstrates how the courage and determination of Pascal and Gideon's small band transform their 40 acres into a model farm. But there's no sugarcoating here: just as their perfect cotton crop matures, President Johnson reverses his land acts to declare that only white families can own the 40-acre plots of free land. Even this devastating development doesn't attenuate Pascal's sense of accomplishment ("Maybe nobody gave freedom, and nobody could take it away like they could take away a family farm. Maybe freedom was something you claimed yourself"). A stirring story of self-determination. Ages 8-12.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-6-Once again, Robinet has humanized a little-known piece of American history. In the spring of 1865, the Freedmen's Bureau approved a plan to give 40 acres of abandoned land to former slave families. Forty thousand freed people took advantage of that offer, only to lose their farms when it was withdrawn in September. The author focuses on Pascal, 12, a slave on a plantation in South Carolina. His older brother Gideon, who ran away during the war, returns to collect him and they head for Georgia, determined to become landowners. Teaming up with Pascal's friend Nelly and the elderly Mr. Freedman and his granddaughter, they form a family, claim land, and begin to farm. The Bibbs, white neighbors from Tennessee, are helpful in protecting them from the night riders who are determined to destroy black-owned farms. Despite their hard work, Pascal and the others are evicted at the end of the summer. Luckily, Gideon had found a treasure buried under a tree, and they set out to buy land on the Georgia Sea Islands. Pascal is a likable boy whose withered hand and leg limit his body but not his mind and whose dreadful jokes entertain everyone. The dialect may deter some readers at first, but sympathy for the characters will keep children going until they reach the satisfying ending.
Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent story Sept. 21 2003
The event in this story happened in the early of the reconstruction period of South America. It was about Pascal, 12-year-old a young black slave, and his family reaching for their own land. Gideon,Pascal's brother who had left a plantation of a white master which he used to live with Pascal, came back to invite his younger brother and his orphaned friend Nelly to escape there with him. They were motivated to have their own land by a promise of "forty acres and maybe a mule" from the Bureau of Refugees. Along the way, hey searched for other friends to create a new family friends. Finally, they pick up an older man calling himself Mr. Freedman, and his granddaughter, Gladness t. Pascal and his new family have imagine any of it could ever come true. After a long, hard journey, they find most exciting of all, a promise to give the land. They got the land forty acres in Georgia, and planed many plants. However, their great dream no longer stayed, when its nearly harvest time, a government said that slaves must gave back their land.
This is a story of determination, hard work, create a new lives and family, of hope, peace, and love, in a cruelty society. "forty acres and maybe a mule" seemed to be their new life that they had dreamed and fight for it all their hard journey. I think the writer, Robinet, allow the reader to enter the world of slaves that there are many obstacles during the reconstruction period. Moreover, the society is cruelty and unfair for them because of racism. I'm very impressed in Pascal characteristic because he learns that he is a worthwhile person even though he has a weak physical. About Gideon, he learns that he is a man whether or not he has no land, so he should lives with dignity although he is a black.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reconstrutionist tale Aug. 3 2003
Through the eyes of Pascal, a young black slave, we perceive the beginnings of the Reconstruction period of the South. Motivated by a promise of "forty acres and maybe a mule" by Circular 13 from the Bureau of Refugees, Pascal's brother Gideon enlightens his family and friends of the Emancipation Proclamation and convinces his younger brother to leave the plantation with him. Along the way, they search for other missing members of their family, make new friends, and find enemies. Joy builds as their farm comes together a piece at a time. Just when its nearly harvest time, a ruling that says slaves must give back their land comes out. Will the City family lose everything they have gained?
Readers come away with a clear picture of the life that has been fled, the continued injustice of racism, and frustration at the threat of impending loss. The humor, resilience, and hope of freed slaves are uplifting. Period details and realistic dialect add credibility to the characters and authenticity to the tale. An author's note presents facts that the story is based on; Robinet challenges readers to think about today's injustices against people of all kinds. A bibliography for further reading is appended.
Often wars are portrayed in historical fiction, not the act of rebuilding in the aftermath. Robinet's novel is a welcome change, and would work very well for classes studying the Civil War or African-American History.
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I'm surprised to see very few reviews posted here for this excellent award-winning work of historical fiction for middle readers. This Scott O'Dell Award winner about African-American life in the South is in the same tradition as the renowned "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" books by Mildred Taylor.
Here we get on an emotional roller-coaster ride as we follow the lives of three young ex-slaves during the early days of Reconstruction in 1865. Gideon returns from following General Sherman to his former plantation to retrieve his younger crippled brother, Pascal, and his orphaned friend Nelly. In their quest to find the "forty acres and maybe a mule" in Georgia, that had been promised by General Sherman, they befriend a grandfatherly carpenter, and his long-lost granddaughter, to create a new family.
The harsh realities of unjust treatment by white nightriders, who are trying to force emancipated slaves to return to their plantations, are tempered by various friendly white people who help them find their forty acres, open a school for the children, register them to vote, who become neighbors, etc.
This is a story of determination, hard work, rebuilding lives and families, of hope, peace, and love, in the face of discrimination and cruelty.
A seldom recognized historical fact is woven into this well-researched tale: the party of Lincoln, the Republican Party, was the original party of Civil Rights. The impact of the death of Lincoln on these emancipated slaves that were given land is dramatically portrayed here. And the quick backpedaling of his successor, Andrew Johnson, becomes a painful reality for nearly 39,000 black landowners just months after he takes office.
This book deserves a wider reading by upper elementary through middle school students and their teachers, especially when discussing the facts surrounding the impact of the Civil War and early Reconstruction efforts in the South.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule April 3 2001
The events in this book kept me on the edge of my seat. My emotions were in constant turmoil. At times I found myself full of joy and hope for the City family. The very next moment, I was experiencing fear and sorrow, not knowing whether the family could survive the constant dangers presented by the nightriders. A major theme throughout this book is man against society. Robinet allows the reader to enter the world of ex-slaves during the reconstruction period. The reader is able to experience the fears and the joys of the characters. The true historical events presented help the reader to understand the brutality of slavery. Readers can also see that this brutality did not end when President Lincoln freed the slaves. Readers can also see how the characters changes during the telling of this story. Pascal learns that he is a worthwhile person even though he has a physical disability. Gideon learns that he is a man whether or not he owns land. He and the other ex-slaves learn that freedom is about having dignity. The land can be taken, but freedom can't be taken away from you.
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