Forty Acres And Maybe A Mule Hardcover – Nov 1 1998
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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 Forty thousand freed people took advantage of that offer, only to lose their farms when it was withdrawn in September.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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
The events in this book kept me on the edge of mt seat. My emotions were in constant turmoil. At times I found myself full of joy and hope for the City family. Read morePublished on April 3 2001 by Henrietta D. Hayes
This book is very well written. As fiction it is enjoyable. As history it is accurate and informative. Read morePublished on Feb. 16 2001