Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation

Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation

Historical Fiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2009   ISBN: 978-0802853196

When Ben was living on the plantation with his father and mother, his father taught him the alphabet. This was a dangerous thing to do because slaves were not supposed to learn how to read. Later, after his father was sold, Ben was sent to work for a tailor in Charleston. As he went about his work, Ben taught himself how to read using signs on streets, labels on boxes, and newspapers that white folks had thrown away. After a visit to see his mother, Ben began to teach himself how to write as well.

Knowing that it was dangerous to be a slave who could read and write, Ben hid his ability, but the slaves in town got to know about his skill, and many of them asked him to teach them how to write their names.

After the civil war began, Ben, like so many other slaves, was sent to a slave prison, which was used as a holding area for slaves who were going to be sold. Ben decided to “forget about reading. It could only lead to trouble.” Little did he know that in the near future he would be called on to read about an event that would change his life.

Based on the true story of a slave called Benjamin C. Holmes, this story is incredibly powerful and moving. It is hard to imagine that there ever was a time when a section of American society was not allowed to read, but this is how it was. With warm illustrations and a beautifully written text, this is a book that every young reader should read.

At the back of the book, the author provides her readers with more information about the real Benjamin. C. Holmes.