Friday, April 20, 2012

Frederick Douglass: A Noble Life by David Adler

When we think back upon the past, we often times think of the period where slaves were a common form of labor for every white individual to own. White men were deemed superior over any African American, but Frederick Douglass, who was born into slavery in 1818, knew that slavery was wrong, and that he could and would prove he was destined for something greater than just being another pair of working hands.

Nonfiction read, Frederick Douglass: A Noble Life, is an excellent overview of one of the most celebrated runaway slaves that fought against all odds and won his freedom, Frederick Douglass. After facing so many adversities, such as whipping, starvation, witnesses to killings, this once uneducated and deprived man rose to become a "world-renowned orator, journalist, best-selling author, and [even an] adviser t to U.S. presidents." The history of Frederick Douglass is not a new one; everyone has heard some sort of history of this great man, nevertheless, the story never gets old.

Although David Adler's novel just surfaces the incredible journey that Frederick Douglass endured, it is still powerful in the sense that it allows its readers to see that if anyone puts their mind to it, they can prevail; that anything is possible. Frederick Douglass: A Noble Life, took place in 1818 until the Frederick's death in 1895, however, this novel is an exemplary story for anyone who needs encouragement to continue on in their aspirations of their goals. Alder includes several saddening, yet inspirational quotes at the start of each chapter to allow even greater insight to these experiences that Douglass had to go through. Yes, this story begins during the times of slavery, nonetheless, it ends with the abolition of slavery and of course, the death of Frederick Douglass, but not without the recognition of his accomplishments from important figures, such as Theodore Tilton (an American newspaper editor, poet, and abolitionist).

I recommend David Alder's novel to be assigned, but only at a jr. high level because its 118 paged, large print book only briefly scans the history of Frederick Douglass. Students will learn about his journey, will not get the overwhelming details, and of course, the students will not get bored reading the history of Frederick Douglass because its not long. Students in High School, however, should be taught from a more detailed story, one that I read back in high school myself,  The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Fredrick Douglass himself. Not only is this autobiography detailed, empowering in every sense, but it also teaches the students about slavery and is by the man who experienced it all. What I did not like about Adler's novel was that he barely touched on very key thoughts and experiences that Douglass explored in the autobiography I previously read, and I also noticed that he changed a few details in the story itself. For instance, Douglass's grandma was cast aside and basically left to die on her own in the woods by herself in the autobiography, but in this novel, Alder kind of sugarcoats the story of Douglass's grandmother by barely talking about her and ending her part in the novel by saying that Douglass remembered her though her love of the garden. Not once did Alder mention anything about the maltreatment of Douglass's grandmother. I felt that this was done on purpose because, I believe, this novel is meant to be read by students at a Jr. High level and not at the high school level where students learn more in depth about the horrors of our history in America.  

Nevertheless, Alder's novel is an appropriate history lesson of the great Frederick Douglass and a view into what life was like in the years that America was divided among slavery. Great overview for students in Jr. High.  


Sarah Rau said...

Great review. This book sounds like it would give kids a really good opportunity to learn about slavery and the abolition of it more in-depth. I've found that with many historical periods and events, we are taught them in school as an overview of facts....not always feeling much connection to it. I feel like a book like this that gives such insight into Douglass' story would really engage students in his life and give them a better understanding of our country's unfortunate past of slavery.

runner4life23 said...

Thanks for your comment Sarah. That's exactly what I thought. I think this is a perfect read for students to have an ideal overview of the facts. It gives enough information to inform the students, but not bored them, etc.

Safa said...

I like your review! We have chosen the same book to report on. I have contacted Dr. Philion to make sure it's okay. Frederick Douglass, is someone that I have been studying since grammar school.

Safa Muhammad

amberK said...

Hi Janet-
You have a great review here and your links added even more to it! I thought it was really clever that even though you recommend this particular book for junior high, you recommend an alternative for older students, or students who became interested in Douglass through this book.

runner4life23 said...

Thanks for your comment Amber :) As for Safa, I didn't know. Did he email you back by any chance? I know for a fact that we didn't select the book for the same category so maybe he'll let it slide? Hope so. And thanks for the heads up :)

KMilsap said...

This a great review and an excellent choice for teachers to use as a tool for teaching students about slavery and the accomplishments of Fredeick Douglass. I like how you made the suggestion for junior high students to read as you realized that the content would be more age appropriate for their age group and not as challenging for high school students.