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Promises to the Dead [Hardcover]

Mary Downing Hahn
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 20 2000
Mary Downing Hahn combines powerful characters, dark secrets, and breathtaking suspense in a compelling Civil War-era story readers won't soon forget. Aiding and abetting an escaped slave is against the law, and it goes against everything Jesse Sherman has been taught. But he has promised a dying runaway slave that he will take her seven-year-old son, Perry, to safety in Baltimore. He can't break a promise made to the dead, no matter what the risks. More important, he must follow what he knows to be true in his heart. When the journey turns out to be far more difficult and dangerous than he anticipated, and he loses Perry on the riot-torn streets of Baltimore, Jesse comes face to face with the worst humanity has to offer. But he also witnesses examples of love, compassion, and courage unlike anything he's experienced before. AUTHOR'S NOTE.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Hahn's (Anna All Year Round) historical novel, set in a divided Maryland at the beginning of the Civil War, portrays an unconvincing tale of escape from slavery. The story begins with a tenuous premise: 12-year-old narrator Jesse stumbles on a desperate pregnant runaway captive (whom Jesse recognizes), Lydia, and her young son, Perry, fathered by her recently deceased master, Peregrine Baxter. She holds Jesse at knifepoint ("She'd just as soon kill you as look at you," Perry tells Jesse), yet as the woman is dying from childbirth, Jesse promises her that he'll deliver Perry to Peregrine Baxter's sister in Baltimore (though readers will question whether he'd find a welcome reception). While readers may suspend disbelief regarding Jesse's risk taking, they may not take the leap of faith that captives with even more to lose would help them so freely. For example, during a riot inspired by the influx of Union soldiers in Baltimore (based on actual events), the "meanest and most determined slave-catcher in Talbot County" nabs Perry and knocks Jesse, with a pistol, on the head; Jesse faints in front of Judge Baxter's (Peregrine Baxter's father) residence, and the judge's staff secretly nurses him for weeks. The connection between Jesse and Perry is not fully developed, hence their relationship--as well as Jesse's Herculean efforts--seems hollow. Ages 10-14. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-6-Despite some unlikely coincidences and superficial secondary characters, this is a reasonably exciting adventure story that integrates many historical details. When 12-year-old Jesse, a white Southerner, promises Lydia, a slave who dies while trying to escape, that he will take her young son, Perry, to relatives in Baltimore, he finds himself not only traveling farther than he's ever been, but caught up in the outbreak of the Civil War as well. The focus of the story is Jesse's realization about the evils of slavery, personified by the despicable Colonel Botfield, who is searching for the runaways. In the end, Jesse has learned to question much of what he has been taught. The African-American characters, while mostly brave and good, serve mainly to move the plot along. Some readers may find the facts that Perry's father was a white slave owner who seduced Lydia and that Colonel Botfield is indeed Lydia's father confusing. While these details add important historical information, they overload the plot at times. Still, the dangers that Jesse and Perry encounter, and the events they witness, from a riot in Baltimore to a skirmish with Union soldiers, make this an involving story that raises many of the issues that led to the Civil War.
Cyrisse Jaffee, formerly at Newton Public Schools, MA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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If my great-uncle Philemon hadn't gotten a sudden hankering for turtle soup, the story I'm about to tell would have come out different. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Mary Drowning Hahn Dec 19 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book, Promises to the Dead, is a great book that took place during the Civil War time. It begins when Jesse is hunting turtles for the family's famous soup in the family down in the creek. The next thing he knows is that he's finding himself promising a dying slave women that he'll take her young son, Perry, to a relative in Baltimore. Caring for a slave was against the law and against everthing Jesse was thought. He can't break a promise made to the dead and more importanly, he must follow what in his heart is right. The journey turns out complety different from what Jesse thought. He comes upon many hard decisions and tough choices he must do for what he thinks is right. Does Jesse make it through? Read the book to find out!!
I did like the book because it was suspensful and tought you to do was right from wrong. It really made you think of what is important in life. I would recommend the book if you like to be in suspense and if you like books on Historical Fiction and wars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Promises to the dead Nov. 29 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
(...)I just got done reading the book Promises to the Dead. Promises to the Dead is a mystery book. It's about a boy who has to take a slave woman's child to a relative in Baltimore. When they get there, they find out that the relative wasn't there. So,they go on a journey to find her. Along the way, they get into some trouble. If you like mystery books, you should definitely read this book.
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Format:Hardcover
Jesse's search for turtles in a swamp leads him to newresponsibilities and reluctant encounters with slavery as he makes apromise to a dying slave woman that her young son will be taken to asafe home in Baltimore. Jesse's beliefs conflict with his promise and are complicated by his young charge's stubbornness in this different story of a move to freedom.
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5.0 out of 5 stars review April 24 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
i thought this book was very interesting it told a lot about how it was when there was slaves.people who like mysteries and thrillers should read this i think mary downing is a great writer and that everyone should read it to find out what it was really like in a persons point of view that was there when there was slaves.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  35 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mary Drowning Hahn Dec 19 2002
A Kid's Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book, Promises to the Dead, is a great book that took place during the Civil War time. It begins when Jesse is hunting turtles for the family's famous soup in the family down in the creek. The next thing he knows is that he's finding himself promising a dying slave women that he'll take her young son, Perry, to a relative in Baltimore. Caring for a slave was against the law and against everthing Jesse was thought. He can't break a promise made to the dead and more importanly, he must follow what in his heart is right. The journey turns out complety different from what Jesse thought. He comes upon many hard decisions and tough choices he must do for what he thinks is right. Does Jesse make it through? Read the book to find out!!
I did like the book because it was suspensful and tought you to do was right from wrong. It really made you think of what is important in life. I would recommend the book if you like to be in suspense and if you like books on Historical Fiction and wars.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Jan. 6 2013
By Michael Kittner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Loved everything about this novel: the dialect, the quest, the uncommon friendship.

I would highly recommend this novel, and don't be dissuaded by the title and Hahn's other novels -- this isn't a ghost story.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a teacher's view Jan. 4 2013
By teacher for life - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As a middle school teacher, I am always looking for books which will catch the interest of my students. This book has danger, the mysterious, and a touch of history that will grab their attention.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book Jan. 3 2013
By Emily Simonet - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book was the best book I read by this author and so far I have read three books by this author. But this book was so fascinating to me that I read it one whole day I could put the book down, and this is a true story, in the back of the book it tells how this story was a true story that happens to the authors parents grandparents. This is the third book I read and it was amazing ever book I pick up by this author I end up loving it more than I loved the one before . I give this book five stars. One of my new ball time favorites.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars review April 24 2002
A Kid's Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
i thought this book was very interesting it told a lot about how it was when there was slaves.people who like mysteries and thrillers should read this i think mary downing is a great writer and that everyone should read it to find out what it was really like in a persons point of view that was there when there was slaves.
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