Open Wide the World


Open Wide the World Through Books: June 2018 Edition

Each month in 2018, our family is reading books together focusing on world cultures and history. After reading a book, we're following inspiration wherever it leads: a study of bananas (March), an instagram search (April), or a nearby restaurant (last month).

Learn more about the origin of this series here or jump right in with our June pick for "Open Wide the World through Books!"

In this series, we share family-friendly books on travel, cultures, anthropology, and world history. Come see what we're reading in June. Then share your suggestions, too!

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Escape Into the Night

by Lois Walfrid Johnson, who wrote an entire Freedom Seekers series following this book

The publisher says:

Libby Norstad's life has changed to anything but ordinary. In 1857, when she comes to live on the Christina, her father's steamboat, Libby's curiosity ensnares her in a mystery. What is the closely held secret of Caleb, the cabin boy who seems determined to make her life miserable? And how can Jordan, a fugitive slave, possibly reach safety and freedom?

The night is dark. As three men race to the riverfront, bloodhounds follow their tracks. Through her journey to compassion, will Libby become a freedom seeker? 

One choice will change Libby's life forever.

We say:

Julie: Although written for the tween/teen age range, this was a page turner for me, too. Great book for immersing in history and stimulating discussion!

Homer: For a kids' story, this book pulls you surprisingly deep into the issue of slavery. The book brings to life the cruelty of the slave trade as well as the courage of those escaping to freedom and those helping them on their way. Really good book.

Mag (10 y/o): After this book, I thought more about how people were mistreated because of their skin color.

I was impressed that it took a lot of courage for the white characters to help the black characters to survive, and how slaves helped each other get free. 


Our family's rating (on a scale of 1-10): 10

The fact that we finished this book and went right out to get Book 2 of the series the next morning says it all! 

But just for emphasis, Mag adds, "I advise for people to read this book!"


Extension Activity

We did things in reverse this month: it was the extension activity that lead to the book choice this time, rather than the other way around.

During a recent visit to Richmond, Indiana and the home of Levi Coffin (which was, incidentally, coined "Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad" in its day), we heard the term "freedom seekers" for the first time. 

We appreciated the emphasis this term places on each person's inherent right to freedom, as compared to the more commonly used term "runaway slave," which reduces one to an illegal and non-human status. Our new exposure to the term "freedom seekers" lead to an online search, which lead to our finding Lois Walfrid Johnson's series of the same name.

As a result of our visit to Richmond and our reading of this book, we are very intrigued to continue visiting more Underground Railroad sites and reading both historical fiction and non-fiction on the subject.

Has your family read any great cultural or historical books?

Give us your recommendations in the comments below!