Saturday, November 2, 2013

Allen Jay and the Underground Railroad

Allen Jay and the Underground Railroad  by Marlene Targ Brill takes young readers on the adventurous, danger-fraught journey of eleven-year-old Allen Jay as he helps a runaway slave escape to freedom just before the Civil War.

Allen's family farm is a stop on that portion of the Underground Railroad located in the state of Ohio. For a while, Allen's parents have been risking their lives by serving as secret conductors of slaves from the South to Canada.

One day, Allen's father asks him to help a runaway slave named Henry James. Allen is afraid and wonders if he can do it. When he meets Henry and escorts him through dangerous territory, Allen learns that there is a big price to pay for freedom.

In this exciting true story, young readers will hold their breath as Allen hides Henry in the family wagon and transports him to the next stop of the Underground Railroad.  Children will learn about courage, faith, and love for all people regardless of their skin color.

What I Like: This story provides a wonderful example of facing one's fears for a noble cause. Children will learn that courage is not the absence of fear but doing the right thing in spite of fear. Author Marlene Targ Brill writes a compelling story in a simple fashion while stretching young readers to build not only their vocabulary but, more importantly, their character. The pencil and crayon illustrations by Janice Lee Porter add depth and drama to a captivating story.

What I Dislike: The author's use of the Quaker dialect of the 1800s may pose some difficulty for young readers. In their speech, the Quakers used the word "thee" to mean "you".  "Thee" is used  throughout the book instead of "you" and, while historically accurate, it makes the reading a bit stilted, especially if the book is read aloud.  Also, while the story portrays unconditional love for one's neighbor, it is not explicitly Christian but rather implicitly so.
Overall Rating: Very good

Age Appeal: 7-10, although older children will enjoy the Civil War history and dramatic suspense portrayed in the book.

Publisher Info: Lerner Publishing, Group, Inc., 1993; ISBN: 10: 0-87614-605-1; Paperback, pgs. 48, $6.95.

Buy it NOW at for $6.16.

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