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Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan
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Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  1,837 ratings  ·  550 reviews
Newbery Honor Book
Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book

Using original slave auction and plantation estate documents, Ashley Bryan offers a moving and powerful picture book that contrasts the monetary value of a slave with the priceless value of life experiences and dreams that a slave owner could never take away.

Imagine being
Hardcover, 56 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
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Average rating 4.31  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,837 ratings  ·  550 reviews

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Start your review of Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan
Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

In July of 1828, Mrs. Fairchild sold her estate after the death of her husband. The sale of her estate included the appraisal and auction of eleven slaves, listed in simple terms along with a selling price on a real document acquired by the author. With colorful collages made from historical ephemera, and the use of free verse, the author imagines beautiful yet tragic stories for all eleven people who no
Who gives voice to the voiceless? What are your credentials when you do so? When I was a teen I used to go into antique stores and buy old family photographs from the turn of the century. It still seems odd to me that this is allowed. Id find the people who looked the most interesting, like they had a story to tell, and Id take them home with me. Then Id write something about their story, though mostly I just liked to look at them. There is a strange comfort in looking at the faces of the ...more
This is a fictionalized account of real people who lived enslaved on a real plantation in the American south in the mid 1800's. This book imagines the outer and inner lives of those enslaved on the Fairchilds estate. The gorgeous illustrations draw upon each individual's life story as an enslaved person and as a human being apart from their identity of slave--their dreams, emotions, feelings, loves, and fears.

As you experience this book, you will begin to understand the weight of what it means
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A mix of artistic illustrations and newspaper print and clippings help tell the stories of the slaves of the Fairchild estate of 1828.
Barb Middleton
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This captures African culture and universal human desires juxtaposed with slavery. I'm living in South Africa. Last weekend we went to Soweto to see Nelson Mandela's house. A young man wanting money walked us across the street pounding on his chest creating a drumbeat and singing a Soweto welcome song trying to earn some money. The song was fun, joyful, and uplifting. Music is an integral part of this culture. Students break into spontaneous song and dance and any student-centered event includes ...more
The concept of this picturebook seemed promising: from just a name, gender and price of 11 slaves listed in the Fairchilds Appraisment of the Estate document from July 5, 1828, Ashley Bryan invents the lives and dreams of these objectified people, in such a way giving them back their humanity. (By the way, I HAVE to note that, contrary to the author's note, there are only 10 slaves listed in the document, as a teenage slave named John is completely invented by the author.) Anyways, I guess my ...more
Adrienne Pettinelli
Thanks to the Newbery Committee for drawing my attention to this book I'd missed. One of the most affecting picture books I've read in a long while.
Stunning portrait of the secret lives of eleven enslaved people and their longing for freedom.
Sep 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing

This is the story of 11 slaves who were owned by the Fairchilds. The first 2 pages made me absolutely ill. And it should for any person, young or old. The first page is in the voice of Mrs. Fairchlds, who has lost her husband. She talks about being so upset and having to sell everything and returning to England, "where I may live without fear, surrounded by my own good British people." And the next page shows the 11 people her family enslaved and how much they're worth, with the most
Mar 21, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is written by explaining what the slaves do everyday. Then, the slaves explained what they dreamed of doing. This is a very sad story, at some points, about how slaves were treated.
Laura Harrison
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Some of Ashley Bryan's most exciting illustrations to date. Informative and incredibly detailed.
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow, imposing, vibrant and powerful book!

The 'story' of eleven slaves - who really existed - and who they might have been, and what their dreams and aspirations could have been, too. After a plantation owner dies, his widow decides to sell off all the property - including the slaves - and return to England. On the auction log the slaves are listed by name - among other property such as cattle, a lot of jin cotton and a handmill - and their monetary value.

Just knowing this and thousands of other
Meag McKeron
As a children's librarian I encounter and read countless picture books during my days and I just don't have the energy to rate them all. But then books like Freedom Over Me come along, and you just have to rate them, because if they aren't on Goodreads did you even read them at all?

Picture books today certainly don't shy away from the topic of slavery, so now the challenge is discerning which ones address this time in our history best. Bryan does a fantastic job of not only showing what the life
This is a beautiful book of poetry. Ashley Bryan was inspired by a real bill of sale for 11 slaves. The bill of sale just lists the slaves' names and price. Bryan took that information and created possible character traits for each of these slaves...their skills and accomplishments, their histories, their families, their loves and dreams. Bryan wrote two poems about each a biographical poem and one a poem about his/her dreams. They were quite powerful.

The illustrations are also
Thomas Bell
Nov 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: newbery-honors
Good easy read. I was very excited about this book being a Newbery prospect and all the EXTREMELY HIGH ratings it has received on Goodreads so far. However, I was slightly disappointed. The stories aren't those of real slaves - just the names of real slaves. Also, it is clear that the stories are meant for a very young audience, so they are quite shallow - even the segments about their dreams.

However, the artwork is beautiful. I would highly recommend this book to the Caldecott committee as
May 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
This did give a window into the lives of slaves which I appreciate, but I was not impressed by the poetry. I wish that the voices of the different slaves were more distinct. They all bled together for me and after the first couple started to read like a fill in the blank questionnaire: name, age, job, connection to other characters in the book, memories of Africa, dream for the future. Switching up the order of the questionnaire or revisiting some of the characters after reading others' stories ...more
Bryan turns a document appraising the value of a plantation owners property--including slaves--into a beautiful collection of poems celebrating each of the individuals listed on the document. He gives them names, ages, and jobs--and memories, relationships, and dreams. It is a powerful reminder that slaves weren't just statistics but real people with histories and personalities.
Mary Lee
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Working from an estate sale document from 1828, Ashley Bryan brings to life the 11 slaves listed as property. He gives them names, African cultures, talents, and dreams. Written in powerful free verse with stunning illustrations, this book will start rich conversations.
I'll be very surprised if this does not garner a Coretta Scott King Award. However the illustrations are amazing, so it probably is also getting some Caldecott buzz. I found it emotional, yet easy reading.
Jan 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Here's something you might not know about Freedom Over Me: when it debuted in September 2016, Ashley Bryan was ninety-three years old. I believe he was the oldest author at the time to ever receive Newbery award recognition, but you'd never have guessed it from the book. His artwork is a swirling remembrance of the undying human spirit, evident in every bowed back of a tired slave at work, every defiant glimmer in the eyes of a black man or woman who refuses to allow their soul to become ...more
How do we determine the value of a man, a woman or a child? Aren't all humans worth the same thing or are those whose skills or attributes somehow make them more worthy than others? This extraordinary picture book raises those questions and answers them as they might have been answered prior to the Civil War. After her husband dies, Mary Fairchilds consolidates his estate, and prepares to sell the plantation's slaves, first having their value appraised. In separate poems, each of the eleven ...more
Dec 30, 2017 rated it liked it
A nice book that tries to depict the dreams, personalities, and aspirations of a group of slaves from a Southern US estate.
I loved how this books seemed like a story, but also had a historical fiction/ informational side to it. My favorite charecter had to be Dora and her family because they would sing to all of the other slaves to keep their hopes and personality's up.
Ava Pratt
Jan 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: msba-2017
This book is written by explaining what the slaves do everyday. Then, the slaves explained what they dreamed of doing. This is a very touching story, about how slaves were treated. I gave this book 3 stars because of the way it was written.
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was really inspiring and sad. If you are interested in slavery this book would be good for you. At the end you feel sad inside knowing people were sold and stuff like that.
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
They entire time I read this beautiful book, I pictured Ashley Bryan leading us all in reciting poetry with him when he spoke at USBBY in St. Louis. He is a national treasure, as are his books.
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
First sentence: I mourn the passing of my husband, Cado Fairchilds. He managed our estate alone. Eleven Negro slaves, they carried out the work that made our estate prosper.

Premise/plot: After the death of her husband, Mrs. Fairchilds decides to sell her estate--all of her estate including eleven slaves--and return to Britain. The eleven slaves were: Peggy, John, Athelia, Betty, Qush, Jane, Stephen, Mulvina, Bacus, Charlotte and Dora.

What you should know: Ashley Bryans, the author and
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
The author reports in an Afterword that he came across a collection of slave-related documents that included an estate sale of eleven slaves (along with cows, hogs, and cotton). Since the slaves were only referred to by gender and age, he decided he wanted to create stories for them and give them voices.

He introduces each slave by a picture he has imagined of the slave, noting his or her age and price. Then he envisions the slaves, in free-verse first-person narrative, describing the roles the
Ben Sirois
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Not a bad book, I give it a four out of five. I like how Ashley Bryan did little stories about different slaves. She gave a great example of what life was like, but not only did she do just that she also did it in such little paragraphs. I recommend this book to all those interested in the Civil War and slavery era. ...more
Nancy Kotkin
Wow. This picture book is simultaneously heart-wrenching and powerfully hopeful. And isn't that the mark of great literature and art? I will be processing the emotions evoked by this book for a long time to come.

Sadly, it's much too long for a story-time read-aloud, but it would make a great group activity with character roles assigned to different group participants. You could also design a whole teaching unit around this book, with supplemental materials, about the different topics raised in
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Review #7 1 1 Apr 03, 2019 02:41PM  

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Ashley Bryan is an illustrator, children's author, and poet.

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“Through all my years
I've listened to
ancestral voices
echoing through
my weariness,
giving me strength
to withstand injustice,
to believe in myself
and survive.

May our songs and stories
keep alive in us
the will to grow in learning.
The longing to be free!”
“I've walked a long trail,
a long trail of years
flushed with tears.
Tears of remembrance.

Years of driven labor
have not driven
the ancestral thoughts
out of me.
My memory of teaching—
surrounded by children,
singing songs of our people,
the stories of our history—
lives always with me...

Song shields our hearts from abuse,
draws us together,
strengthens our lives.”
More quotes…