5 Children's Books About Freedom

Updated Jan. 19, 2019
Ona Judge Outwits the Washingtons book
#1
Ona Judge Outwits the Washingtons
Written by Gwendolyn Hooks and illustrated by Simone Agoussoye
picture book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

Soon after American colonists had won independence from Great Britain, Ona Judge was fighting for her own freedom from one of America's most famous founding fathers, George Washington. George and Martha Washington valued Ona as one of their most skilled and trustworthy slaves, but she would risk everything to achieve complete freedom. Born into slavery at Mount Vernon, Ona seized the opportunity to escape when she was brought to live in the President's Mansion in Philadelphia. Ona fled to New Hampshire and started a new life. But the Washingtons wouldn't give up easily. After her escape, Ona became the focus of a years-long manhunt, led by America's first president. Gwendolyn Hooks' vivid and detailed prose captures the danger, uncertainty, and persistence Ona Judge experienced during and after her heroic escape. The Capstone Interactive edition comes with simultaneous access for every student in your school and includes read aloud audio recorded by professional voice over artists.

The Escape of Robert Smalls book
#2
The Escape of Robert Smalls
Written by Jehan Jones-Radgowski and illustrated by Poppy Kang
picture book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

The mist in Charleston Inner Harbor was heavy, but not heavy enough to disguise the stolen Confederate steamship, the Planter, from Confederate soldiers. In the early hours of May 13, 1862, in the midst of the deadly U.S. Civil War, an enslaved man named Robert Smalls was about to carry out a perilous plan of escape. Standing at the helm of the ship, Smalls impersonated the captain as he and his crew passed heavily armed Confederate forts to enter Union territory, where escaped slaves were given shelter. The suspenseful escape of the determined crew is celebrated with beautiful artwork and insightful prose, detailing the true account of an unsung American hero.

Never Caught, The Story Of Ona Judge book
#3
Never Caught, The Story Of Ona Judge
Written by Kathleen Van Cleve and illustrated by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-13

A National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction, Never Caught is the eye-opening narrative of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s runaway slave, who risked everything for a better life—now available as a young reader’s edition! In this incredible narrative, Erica Armstrong Dunbar reveals a fascinating and heartbreaking behind-the-scenes look at the Washingtons’ when they were the First Family—and an in-depth look at their slave, Ona Judge, who dared to escape from one of the nation’s Founding Fathers. Born into a life of slavery, Ona Judge eventually grew up to be George and Martha Washington’s “favored” dower slave. When she was told that she was going to be given as a wedding gift to Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Ona made the bold and brave decision to flee to the north, where she would be a fugitive. From her childhood, to her time with the Washingtons and living in the slave quarters, to her escape to New Hampshire, Erica Armstrong Dunbar (along with Kathleen Van Cleve), shares an intimate glimpse into the life of a little-known, but powerful figure in history, and her brave journey as she fled the most powerful couple in the country.

Break Your Chains book
#4
Break Your Chains
Written by Emily Conolan
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-13

To find freedom, you must leave behind everything you've ever known. It is 1825. You and Ma have survived on the streets of London ever since the soldiers took Da away and you fled Ireland. Now, with Ma gone too, you find yourself facing life-and-death choices at every turn. Can you carry a secret treasure across the ocean and finally be reunited with Da? You'll be asked to betray your friends, survive storms at sea and attacks by bushrangers, and trust thieves. At every turn, the choice is yours. How far will you go for freedom?

Touch the Sun book
#5
Touch the Sun
Written by Emily Conolan
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-13

To find freedom, you must leave behind everything you've ever known. It is 2011. You want nothing more than to be a journalist in Somalia like your aunty. But the truth can be dangerous--and when you and your little sister are left alone, you find yourself facing life-and-death choices at every turn. Can you escape a terrorist organization and find a safe place to call home? You'll be asked to cross a desert on foot, hide below deck in a leaky boat, and put your life in the hands of people smugglers. At every turn, the choice is yours. How far will you go for freedom?

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected]!