Written by: Jehan Jones-Radgowski
Illustrated by: Poppy Kang
For ages: 9-13 years
Topics Covered: Enslavement, Historical Figure, Historical Events, Abolition, POC-Centric Narratives, Resilience, Strength, Own Voices.
Summary: This book is phenomenal. Robert Smalls was an enslaved man that was able to hold a job away from the person that enslaved him. Because of this, he worked on a ship called The Planter during the Civil War and hatched a plan to save himself and many others. Because Smalls was brave, intelligent, and cunning, he planned to impersonate the captain of The Planter and sail himself, his family, and around two dozen other enslaved people to the North where they would be free. Robert set out and was able to sneak the large ship past several Confederate forts by carefully studying the actual ship captain’s movements, not raising suspicions of the soldiers stationed.
This book tells about the entire journey Robert Smalls underwent, and how his bravery also brought weapons to the Union army when the ship arrived. After the story is an Afterword which talks more about enslavement and the Civil War. I love the language that is used in the book, it is person-first and comprehensive without sounding like a lecture. It puts forward Robert’s intelligence in carrying out his plan to help himself and others, rather than telling the story from a savior of abolitionist perspective, Robert is in charge of his own story. There is also a glossary and a list of books that the reader can seek out to learn more, as well as a bibliography and a real photo of Robert!
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Jehan Jones-Radgowski is a U.S. Foreign Service Officer. She has lived all over the world, including South Africa, Spain, Venezuela, Ghana, and the Dominican Republic. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Jehan currently lives in Germany with her family.
Poppy Kang is a freelance Illustrator and Visual Development Artist based in Los Angeles, California.