Sherman, D. (2011). The Freedom Maze. Easthampton, MA: Big Mouth House. ISBN: 9781931520300
Annotation: 13 year old Sophie lives the privileged life of a white girl in Louisiana in 1960, until she makes a wish for adventure and finds herself transported back to 1860 and mistaken for a slave.
Reaction: A friend of mine reviewed this so highly on Goodreads that I immediately looked for it at the library. I really enjoyed this. It reminded me a lot of The Root Cellar, which I read in 5th grade and was pretty scary to 10 year old me, even though I remember really enjoying it (clearly, since I remember the experience of reading the book, rather than the book itself, 18 years later).
At first I wasn’t sure how much I bought into the idea that white Sophie was mistaken for a slave in 1860 Louisiana, but I had to remind myself that light skinned slaves did exist, as Sherman mentions in her acknowledgements at the end. And looking back, Sophie learned much more by being a slave than she would have being accepted as a white family member (which does seem like a totally DUH moment when I say it like that).
I think Sherman does a great job of making Sophie’s journey and growth seem realistic and as relatable as a girl transported back to 1860 Louisiana can be. I will admit that it took me about half the book to really get into it, but thankfully, this book is pretty short, and even the slow beginning (which could have been attributed to the fact that I was reading it on my phone; the only “copy” the library had) was interesting enough to keep moving me along. I think I finished it in less than two days, once I really committed to reading it all the way through.
All the other characters are great, and I’m really glad Sherman avoids obvious stereotypes about Southern plantation owners and their slaves. She handles the abuse that slaves dealt with, severe beatings and rape, with humor in the case of the beatings, and grace and delicacy in the case of the rape. None of the abuse is graphic enough to disallow 11-13 year olds from this, for which I am thankful. (I’m also thankful that the Fairchild’s were fairly kind and lenient masters; I just do not think I could have dealt with any more abuse than is depicted.)
I think this would be a great book for teachers to use as a part of a pre-Civil War history unit in 5th or 6th grade, as my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Reker used The Root Cellar.
Norton Award winner
Prometheus Award winner
Mythopoeic Award winner
Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011
Tiptree Award Honor List