A Picture of Freedom: The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl, Belmont Plantation, Virginia, 1859
(a Dear America series book)
by Patricia McKissack
A Picture of
the story of Clotte, a slave girl living on
a Virginia plantation who has
read while fanning the son of the master during his tutoring
lessons. She teaches herself to write and starts a journal, but
since slaves are forbidden to write, she writes her journal in
secret... until one day it is discovered by her master's tutor.
Thankfully, the tutor is an abolitionist and together they
help some of Clotee's friends escape to freedom. Clotee could also
escape, but she decides to sacrifice her own freedom in order to remain
on the plantation and continue to help other slaves escape on
the Underground Railroad.
As with all books in this series, this title is written in the first person and takes the form of a journal written by the main character.
has struck a perfect balance between educating and entertaining.
Writing a diary of a girl living in slavery would certainly be a
challenging task, but McKissack has created a book that shares the
tragic mistreatment of slaves without forgetting that this is a book
for children. In their review, School
Library Journal praised
the book, calling Clotee a "vibrant, fully rounded character" and
commended McKissack for "bring[ing] Clotee alive through touching and
sobering details of slave life" that leave the reader inspired by her
courage and conviction instead of depressed by the dreadful conditions
she must endure. She is a character your children won't soon forget!
Interest Level: Grade 4-6
Lexile Measure: 790L
The Dear America series is published by Scholastic, and they have many resources for teachers and students on their website. If you do a search for "A Picture of Freedom Discussion Guide", you will find a book summary, eight questions that can serve as discussion starters or writing prompts, and five student activities that will help deepen your students' experience.
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