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Frederick Douglass: Young Defender of Human Rights Review by Nancy Casari Dayton

Elisabeth P. Myers
Patria Press
PO Box 752
Carmel, IN 46082

This book of juvenile historical fiction presents an interesting independent reading opportunity for children. It is targeted toward ages 8-12.

Before I read this book, I re-read the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself in order to familiarize myself with the original history. Elisabeth Myers retells the basic original narrative in this fictional account. As expected in a work of fiction, there is some embellishment of the story to helps foster interest and flow. Cathy Morrison's black-and-white illustrations enhanced my reading enjoyment.

This 105-page book presents a real historical figure who illustrates the values of perseverance, character, and hope. At the end of the book, the author presents useful aides, including a timeline, facts about Frederick Douglass, and a brief glossary. The list price of the book is $9.95 for a paperback or $15.95 for a hardcover. The Patria Press website offers a free teaching guide in PDF format. The website also has a resources page with links to other activities, information on the Underground Railroad, etc. There are 13 volumes in the Young Patriot series. Based on this volume, Patria Press seems to offer well-written, interesting books, and useful related resources for homeschoolers interested in age-appropriate historical reading material.

My preference, however, would be to read the original Narrative aloud with my children. In fact, the language of the original Narrative may well be accessible for many independent readers in the upper end of the targeted age range. More importantly, the original Narrative clearly reflects Douglass's belief in God and acknowledgment of His providence in his life. His perseverance, character, and hope are clearly linked with his understanding of God's character. In his Appendix, Douglass expounds on his views of the American Christianity that he observed, citing the hypocrisy of a society that attends church and prays in their homes while all the time treating human beings of a different color savagely. He likened such hypocrisy to the Pharisees and scribes of the Bible.

In our homeschool, we seek to instruct our children with a biblical worldview. Considering the challenge of finding high-quality literature that espouses that view, I would certainly choose to read an original source of history that contains it rather than a reworked, abbreviated version that does not.

Product review by Nancy Casari Dayton, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2007