Books & More from the Teen Scene

Book reviews and other reflections from one of Oregon's young adult librarians

“Stolen Into Slavery: The True Story of Solomon Northup” by Judith and Dennis Fradin January 16, 2013

Filed under: History,Non-Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 4:00 pm
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Stolen into Slavery cover

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The Facts

120 pages; published January 2012

The Basics

Solomon Northup was born a free black in New York and lived as a free black man for 33 years. In 1841, he was drugged, kidnapped, and sold to a slave trader. He survived 12 years of slavery in Louisiana before finding a way back to his wife and 3 children in New York state.


Humans of capable of doing terrible, terrible things. Solomon Northup was a husband, a father, and a free black man. In 1841, he was looking for work and made a connection to two white men who said they wanted to hire him to play his violin – an instrument he played with great skill – for a circus down the road. They traveled with him, ate with him, and gained his trust. They even helped him obtain papers proving he was a free man before the trio crossed into slave territory – Washington D.C. But the two men were just scheming. When they arrived in the nation’s capital, they carried out their real plan. They drugged Solomon and sold him to a slave trader for $650.

Solomon was not alone. Thousands of free blacks were stolen and illegally sold as slaves in the years before the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. There were laws against this, but as Solomon found, once he was in the hands of the slavers, he had no rights and no way of accessing the legal system. Solomon’s story – unlike the stories of many of these stolen lives – is known because after 12 years of living in slavery, he found a way to make contact and return to his home. In 1853, he published a book about his ordeal. That book is the basis for this story, which lays in out a simple narrative how it happened, how he survived, and all that Solomon had to endure.

It is the story of one man’s experience that increases understanding about the depth of the legacy of shame left by our nation’s slave past.


“Rooftop” by Paul Volponi November 18, 2011

Volponi, Paul. Rooftop. New York: Viking, 2006. 199 pp. ISBN: 0670060690

Rooftop cover

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Estranged cousins Clay and Addison reconnect when they both land in the same day treatment rehabilitation center. As they struggle to manage the program against the pull of the streets, life changes in an horrible instant that leaves Addison dead on a rooftop and Clay unsure how to handle the political circus that overtakes him.


They were already supposed to be at the family night potluck over at Daytop, their day treatment rehabilitation center. But cousins Clay and Addison ran off, chasing that punk Clorox who still owed Addison the money, even though the cops broke up the dice game.

They ran up.

Chasing Clorox to the rooftop.

A wild search.

The sound of footsteps on the stairs.

They turned.

A blaze of gunfire.

A cop’s startled face.

Addison dead at Clay’s feet.

An unarmed black boy shot by a white cop.

Clay is swept into a media and political circus. He is cornered into a lie that leaves him breathless and unsure how to end this thing, how to keep himself going, and how to face what really happened that night in the New York City projects on a lonely Rooftop.

Random thought:

I should recommend this book to Travis, 16. Travis is currently enjoying the books of Laurie Halse Anderson, including Twist, Prom, and Speak. He likes that they talk about high school life and how sometimes people get caught in a situation or make some really bad decisions, but they can still change and get back on the right path. This would be a good fit!

Awards/Honors (source:

  • ALA Best Book Young Adult
  • ALA Quick Pick
  • New York City Library Book for the Teen Age
  • Tayshas List (Texas Library Association)

“Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy” by Gary D. Schmidt October 2, 2011

Schmidt, Gary D. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. New York: Clarion Books, 2004. 217 pp. ISBN: 0616439293

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy cover

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Thirteen-year-old Turner Buckminster has found exactly one friend since moving to Phippsburg, Maine – Lizzie Bright Griffin, who lives in an impoverished community of former slaves on nearby Malaga Island. When the town elders decide they want the island to build a resort hotel for tourists, Turner and Lizzie are pushed to desperate action.


Illuminating a true and shameful episode in Maine history, Gary D. Schmidt has created a striking story about a boy who instinctively rebels against the strict rules that come with being a minister’s son, and his new town’s disdain for the small black community nearby. Turner Buckminster has made a friend in Lizzie Bright, a girl with a sharp tongue and some mad baseball skills who introduces him to her world and people on Malaga Island. He plunges into a naïve, but well-meaning struggle to save Lizzie Bright and her kinfolk from the town elders, and the town elders from themselves.

Told with a bit of humor and a strong feel for the groupthink and nosy nature of small-town life, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy is fast-paced story about a boy who experiences the worst in others, yet learns what is the most beautiful and important in this world.

Awards/Honors (source:

  • 2005 Michael L. Printz Honor Book
  • Michael L. Printz Honor Book
  • Newbery Honor Book
  • ALA Best Books for Young Adults
  • ALA Notable Children’s Book
  • School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
  • Kirkus Reviews Editor Choice Award