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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 Freedom tells the story of Clotte, a slave girl living on a Virginia plantation who has learned to 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. McKissack 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 4-7
Guided Reading Level: T
DRA Level: 50
Lexile Measure: 790L
Note: The intended audience for this book is grades 4-7. Most children in this range should be able to read this book on their own, with the exception of most fourth graders, who (on average) do not read on this reading level until the end of fourth grade. If you are giving this book to fourth graders to read, plan to provide extra support for individual reading OR read this one as a read-aloud.
Teachers: 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.
Covers: There are two different covers available for this book. The one on the left is the newer version.
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