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To Liberty

To Liberty! The Adventures of Thomas-Alexandre Dumas

Published: 9 Jul 2020

Paperback / softback, 96 pages

Recommended for age 9+ and 11+

By Catherine Johnson

Illustrated by Rachel Sanson

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

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An exciting adventure story set in revolutionary France which tells the true story of a swashbuckling hero Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, whose mother was an enslaved African woman and whose father was a French noble. Alex is happy living with his brothers and sister on his father's farm on Haiti but his father wants to go back to France and can't afford to take his mixed-race children with him. Soon, Alex must fight for his freedom...
and that of France. From a slave on the streets of Port au Prince to a general in the French army, the dramatic true story of Thomas-Alexandre Dumas' life (the inspiration for his son's book The Three Musketeers) is brought to life by award-winning author, Catherine Johnson.

Tagged Black History and Caribbean

Reviewed by Laura Ovenden

To Liberty! The Adventures of Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, in an elegant, light-touch manner,  immerses the reader into the 1700s, the birth of the French Republic and France’s involvement in the slave trade of present-day Haiti. Through the eyes of Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, a contemporary of Napoleon Bonaparte, we see the horrors of people traded as commodities as well as the excesses of the French aristocracy.

This book is an example of historical fiction which will lure children into the genre. Catherine Johnson’s eye for detail and skill at placing the reader in the shoes of the protagonists means that the reader is invested in the protagonist, his trials and tribulations.   The author is a gifted storyteller, who manages with authentic dialogue to bring complex historical events alive for the middle-grade reader.

To Liberty! The Adventures of Thomas-Alexandre Dumas would work well as an Upper Key Stage Two read aloud, although historical context would need to be pre-taught. A copy should also be available in every primary school library for fans of historical fiction, as should copies of Johnson’s other work such as Freedom, Race To The Frozen North and Sawbones. Finally, it should be in secondary school libraries too as schools actively attempt to broaden the range of books available to their readers.

I have taught English for over 20 years in tertiary, secondary and now primary settings. I am an English Lead and works in two primary schools in West Yorkshire. I also run an Open University Reading for Pleasure Teachers group in Halifax. I am an Elklan tutor and an Evidence Lead in Education with Aspirer Research School.

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