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Queen of Freedom

Queen of Freedom Defending Jamaica

Published: 6 Aug 2020

Paperback / softback, 128 pages

Recommended for age 11+

By Catherine Johnson

Published by Pushkin Children's Books

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1720. Blue Mountains, windward Jamaica. In the sweltering heat Captain Shettlewood leads a troop of British soldiers through the thick trees towards the river.

They are hunting slaves who have escaped from the brutal plantations. Their mission: to find them, and kill them. But up ahead, hidden among the rocks above the water, a group of men with cutlasses and muskets wait patiently for the instructions of their leader.

Queen Nanny is a 'wise woman' with a reputation for ancient obeah magic, and a guerilla fighter with a genius for organisation. So the battle for Jamaica begins, the First Maroon War, in which the maroons - escaped slaves - will make a final, do-or-die stand against the slavers and soldiers of Empire.

Tagged Black History , colonialism and Jamaica

The True Adventures series

Queen of Freedom Defending Jamaica
The Flag Never Touched The Ground America's Brave Black Regiment in Battle
Swordswoman! The Queen of Jhansi in the Indian Uprising of 1857

The British Black History (primary) pack

Easy purchase - add our curated pack to your basket with one click

An easy-purchase topic  pack of children's books to support the topic of Black British History. You can purchase individual titles or the full collection.

  • Coming to England
  • A Nest of Vipers
  • Windrush Child
  • Black and British: An Illustrated History
  • Africa, Amazing Africa: Country by Country
  • Respect
  • Lands of Belonging
  • The Extraordinary Life of Mary Seacole
  • Freedom
  • Journey Back to Freedom : The Olaudah Equiano Story
  • Diver's Daughter: A Tudor Story
  • Black and British: A short, essential history
  • The Story of the Windrush
  • Son of the Circus - A Victorian Story
  • Granny Came Here on the Empire Windrush
  • Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
  • Little Leaders: Exceptional Men in Black History
  • Timelines from Black History : Leaders, Legends, Legacies
  • Walter Tull's Scrapbook
  • African Migrations
  • The Place for Me
  • Queen of Freedom Defending Jamaica
  • Empire's End - A Roman Story
  • Now or Never: A Dunkirk Story
  • Black Poppies
  • The Story of Britain's Black Airmen

Reviewed by Caroline Bradley

Queen of Freedom : Defending Jamaica by the perpetually passionate Catherine Johnson is a wonderful addition to the True Adventures series from Pushkin Press. There are several titles in this series including Bandit’s Daughter set in Ancient China, Swordswoman! : The Queen of Jhansi in the Indian Uprising of 1857 and coming soon The Black Pimpernel : Nelson Mandela on the Run.

This story is another adventure about an unsung hero set in a significant historical context.  Catherine Johnson is a no stranger to historical fiction and bringing stories of those previously omitted from the history books, to a young audience. Here she tells the story of the legendary ‘wise women’ Queen Nanny, who was leader of the previously enslaved Jamaican Maroons in the 18th-century. She led the resistance to British Colonialism and paved the way for The Slave Trade Act in1807.

It is amazing quite how much has been packed in to a book of less than 200 pages. This is a well designed and very accessible series, including a map at the beginning, further details about the person who is the subject of the story at the end, along with a glossary of terms, a timeline and more about the author. There are no punches pulled in the graphic details, so don’t be fooled by the slim design of this book, it would definitely be more suitable for UKS2 and beyond. I do think it would make a varied addition to a collection of Barrington Stoke and other high-low titles that combine depth of subject matter with accessibility.

The fluidity and pace of the narrative, along with the length of this book make it an ideal read aloud text. The story immediately grabs the readers attention with a chase through the mountains, as Nanny herds her people away from the pursuing British Army (the Redcoats), who have caught two of her people stealing cows. Despite a stolen childhood and years of incarceration in the plantations, this inspirational woman was not beaten and instead rose with great courage to inspire those around her to cast off their shackles and flee a life of oppression.

Ms Dynamite (a contemporary rapper) has spoken and sung about Nanny Maroon in schools. You may like to watch the episode from Cutting Edge in which she returns to Jamaica to research Nanny, if you decide to use this story in the classroom.

Shortlisted for the Jhalek Prize 2021, Queen of Freedom : Defending Jamaica deserves a place in school collections to offer children another historical perspective and an inspirational homage to an inspirational lady: general, spiritual leader, teacher, parent. It would sit well in UKS2 classrooms alongside, Freedom (also by Catherine Johnson) and in KS3 with Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle.



Creative Director at Just Imagine

The BAME authors set

A collection of children's books written and illustrated by BAME authors.

The Black British History set

A set of books celebrating Black British history.