Posted by: Ms. Matson | July 6, 2009


Laurie Halse Anderson
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008
Genre: Young adult historical fiction
Interest level: Grade 6+
AR level: 5.2

Summary from the front flap:

“As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom.  Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel.  When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder her can provide her with freedom.”

I did not finish this with a feeling of wow, what a great, thought-provoking story, the kind where you have to just sit and ponder a minute what the story meant.  It was just not a book that kept me up until the wee hours to finish it.  The pacing of the Isabel’s experience is a little slow, and at times a little boring.

This is not to say Chains is not a “good” book, because it is.  Anderson has done a fine job capturing the voice of a young slave girl caught in the middle of a revolution.  It is clear much research went into this novel to relate event in the story to real events in history.  The brief quotes from original sources at the beginning of each chapter were interesting and conveyed insight to the story.

As in any well-written story of this nature, the human capacity for true cruelty toward one another is revealed, and it is horrifying.  I cannot fathom that we as a people found it good and acceptable to whip, brand, and sell other humans.  And yet, I can, because look at those who advocate abortion.  Everything is rationalized according to science.  What will our descendents say about our cruelties (abortion and otherwise) some 200 years from now?

Chains would be a good book to use in middle school history or language arts in conjunction with teaching about the Revolution.  It presents a very realistic, unromanticized look at slavery during the American Revolution and opens a discussion on what freedom really meant to our founding fathers.



  1. […] Library Hospital (Can You Keep a Secret?)25. Library Hospital (A Bear Called Paddington)26. teachergirl (Chains)27. teachergirl (The Goose Girl)28. Janet (Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder)29. Framed (If You Could […]

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