Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons: The Story of Phillis Wheatley by Ann Rinaldi.
Harcourt Brace & Company: Orlando, FL, 1996.

Ann Rinaldi gets right to the heart of the matter in this story of the first black poetess. She is abducted in Senegal at age seven and sold in Boston to John Wheatley. Taken in, educated, and petted by the Wheatleys, she is still kept as property for many years-even after she proves her worth as a poet. The heir of the family, Nathaniel, teaches and befriends her, but also betrays her again and again with his controlling behavior.

Phillis lived through the American Revolution. Her masters were merchants who stayed neutral as long as possible for business reasons. She traveled to England to have her work published and met Benjamin Franklin, who told her she could be free if she chose. She opted instead to return and care for her grievously ill mistress.

Rinaldi's novel is a psychological study of the turmoil Phillis must have felt being raised as "a member of the family" with constant reminders that she was only a slave. Another element is introduced with the hero worship/infatuation the girl feels for the older and more knowledgeable Nathaniel who is toying with her. In the end her love and appreciation of the elder Wheatleys ties her to them when she could be free. Nathaniel's behavior more than anything forces her to realize her inability to live as she was raised. The story ends with her still young and hopeful, but it is still sad to think that even the more learned and forward thinkers of the time (Ben Franklin and George Washington among them) hung onto their slaves as property well beyond their believing that slavery was evil.

Besides being a great read, I would also recommend it for social studies lists regarding the American Revolution, slavery, and black issues.

The first Ann Rinaldi book I read (In My Father's House was largely a romance novel for teens but with some intriguing historical facts. Since then all of her books (An Acquaintance with Darkness, The Secret of Sarah Revere, and this one) have been riveting, with some romance, but much more-great historical background and psychological questions surrounding the conflicts. It's nice to know she has many more books to enjoy.

related-American Revolution, capability of blacks/slaves, Phillis Wheatley, growth of the middle/trade class in America, education of slaves in the 18th century, social classes, complicated feelings/beliefs regarding slavery, freedom, racial issues

RSS Add to Del.icio.us Stumble It! Add to Technorati Favorites
Email Updates
Kickstart Reading/50+ Transitional Books
Horizons Transitional Books
Horizons Transitional Books
BookAdvice Crosswords
Follow minerva66 at Twitter
Knock Your Socks Off Challenge

Recent NTugo Network Posts

    ©2006-2016 BookAdvice.net. Advice, banner, and coding help given by Redwall_hp. Established May 2006.