I loved about this book that it is a historical fiction novel in verse, which is very approachable for middle school readers and reluctant readers at a higher level alike. The dialogue is easy to follow, and the vocabulary is level-appropriate.
I love how close the novel keeps to the facts of the time, and that it interjects factoids as the book progresses: slaves not knowing their own ages, slave auctions and the actual prices slaves were sold for, the underground railroad, selling slaves back into slavery, the treatment of slaves on a plantation, etc. All of these factual interjections are great starting points for further research into slavery. Along the same lines, I'm grateful to Lester for writing the dialogue colloquially, so that readers have a better understanding of the way that slaves and southerners spoke—a chance to possibly connect to current day colloquialisms.
I also enjoy that Lester represents the full spectrum of white sentiment toward slavery: abolitionism, pro-slavery, ambivalence and all. Even in some of the most negatively portrayed characters (Frances and Master), the reader can see a hint of regret towards what happened at the slave auction. However, there are more negatively illustrated characters (the slave-auctioneer) whose pitiful lives are meant to directly correlate to their inhumane actions.
I feel that this book really allows the reader to inhabit the lives and minds of the characters in the book, and have real emotional responses. I love that the capitalized text stands for dialogue, the lowercase for thoughts, and the italics for future reflection. This not only breaks up the story in an interesting way, but also lends itself well to full-class read-aloud participation. A short, approachable, and engaging read for middle school readers. Great for connecting to further research.