Second Story Press, 2011.
This story tells parallel narratives of two young girls: Flower and her family travelling on the Underground Railroad before the American Civil War, and Felicia and her family living in Plainsville, Ontario in present day. Both stories are full of adventure and angst, and even though the girls are very different, and living in very different circumstances, there are similarities between their experiences.
Flower is travelling with her parents and baby brother to escape slavery in the American South. They run into several challenges along the way: slave-catchers, illness, despair, getting lost, and more, but with the help of friendly Quakers and others along the way, they manage to make their way to safety in Canada. Flower plays an instrumental role in their success, when they are imprisoned and the doctor who comes to visit them slips her a key to escape.
Felicia has just moved to Plainsville from Toronto for her mom’s job. She has to make all new friends, and figure out what it's like to live in a smaller town. She meets three girls who become her friends, and picks up new hobbies and interests, including horseback riding. When Felicia is given a family history project at school, she begins to research the Underground Railroad and spends a lot of time talking with her grandmother about their ancestors and the challenges they faced. Her final project is an illustrated family tree that is put on display in the school. However, the mean girl in Felicia’s class defaces her project, just another of her mean-spirited pranks towards Felicia, seemingly because of the colour of her skin.
There are common themes in the story, though it’s hard to compare the excitement and danger of travelling on the Underground Railroad with living in southern Ontario in present day, but Plaxton finds a way to make both tales engaging. Both stories discuss racism and prejudice, and manage not to be didactic or to over-simplify what is a complex issue. The story wraps up with Felicia visiting the Sheffield Park Black History and Cultural Museum with her class, where she is drawn towards an embroidered quilt that Flower described working on in the previous chapter. This is an engaging read - recommended.
Underground Railroad, Courage, Prejudice
Vol. 17, number 2
E - Excellent, enduring, everyone should see it!
G - Good, even great at times, generally useful!
A - Average, all right, has its applications.
P - Problematic, puzzling, poorly presented.