Martha’s Freedom Train, by C. LaRene Hall, tells the tale of a young slave girl before the American Civil War. Fearful that their master’s attentions are turning too uncomfortably towards their daughter, Martha’s parents decide to flee the plantation with her and travel the Underground Railroad in a bid for freedom in the North. Unfortunately, the frigid temperatures the family is forced to navigate causes Martha’s mother to contract pneumonia. Martha’s father is faced with a difficult choice: leave his wife behind and hope that she will recover in the care of some kind strangers who are assisting them with their flight, or take the risk of sending young Martha ahead on her own…not to the North, but to the West with a train of pioneers that they have encountered.
Martha’s father chooses the latter, promising to come West to find her as soon as Martha’s mother is well. So young Martha tearfully bids her parents farewell and begins a fateful journey to the Great Salt Lake Valley in the company of a band of Mormon Pioneers who have been expelled from their homes in Illinois by the violent intolerance of mobs.
Martha’s Freedom Train is a historical fiction novel written for children ages 10 and above. Ms. Hall’s prose is smooth and will provide an easy read for this age group. Youthful readers will learn much about the fears and challenges faced by runaway slaves in pre-Civil War America, the Underground Railroad and how it worked, frontier life as Martha crosses the plains with her new friends, all while discovering her own self-worth as she learns that all people, regardless of color or race, are children of God. The illustrations by Annette Stonehocker are charming and enhance the story in a delightful manner.
I highly recommend Martha’s Freedom Train as an inviting way for children to learn about important aspects of America’s past.
You can read more about C. Larene Hall and her writing on her blog, C. LaRene Hall.
You can also win your very own autographed copy of Martha's Freedom Train by visiting C. LaRene's blog, and emailing one title on her "Recent Books That I've Read" list to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to type "Martha's Freedom Train" in the subject line, and INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND MAILING ADDRESS. Deadline to send me your entry is Monday, August 3, midnight PST. The winner will be announced on August 4th.