Title: Journey Back to Freedom
Author: Catherine Johnson
Major Themes: Slavery, Africa, England, Olaudah Equiano
Synopsis: After being kidnapped from his home in Africa, Olaudah Equiano had quite an adventurous life, and was able to write the story of his experiences.
Several years ago, I read a book to my children about Olaudah Equiano. It was a fascinating story about an African man who was kidnapped, taken to the West Indies, and served as a slave there, then worked on ships and eventually earned money to pay for his freedom. I found Journey Back to Freedom recently, and realized quickly that it was the same story but retold for younger children.
Olaudah was only about 11 when he was stolen from his native village and taken to the coast of Africa. There, he was put onto a ship and taken to the West Indies, where he was sold as a slave. He was sold from one owner to another, and spent several years in England. There, he learned to read and decided he wanted to become free. But, how could he accomplish that?
After a few years, Gustavus, as he was now called, went back to the West Indies with his new owner. There, he began to find ways to buy his freedom. Many adventures followed, and eventually, he was able to return to his friends in England. One of them suggested he write the story of his life and all his unique experiences—which is the source of information for this book.
I thought Journey Back to Freedom was a very good retelling of the story of a brave man. It is told in first-person, just as it was written in the first place. It vividly portrays the horrors of the slave trade and what it is like to be a slave and belong to another person. At the same time, it is not too graphic for children.
I received a review copy of this book from NetGalley, and these are my honest thoughts about it.
WARNING: Occasional mentions of whippings, and people dying on the slave ship going from Africa to the West Indies.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12