If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?
As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight...for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.
From acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson comes this compelling, impeccably researched novel that shows the lengths we can go to cast off our chains, both physical and spiritual.
Touching Historical Fiction
By Tammyjo Eckhart on Oct 26, 2008
For ages 10+ this is an intense account of slavery in pre-Independence times of the USA. Too often we think that slavery only got bad in the 19th century or that it was limited to southern plantations. That is not the truth. Nor is it the truth that every slave owner was evil or every slave an innocent suffering. Laurie Halse Anderson does an excellent job of showing the complexities of slavery in the life of one young slave (her age is never given), her mentally handicapped 5 year old sister, and those they must interact with to survive the challenge of war. If you are not familiar with the true nature of slavery you will find this book disturbing. The question and answer section at the end of the book answers a lot of questions you may have about this period in American history.
Chains (Seeds of America) By Laurie Halse Anderson - Book Review
By Pooja Sadhwani on Nov 24, 2013
Chains, a brilliant historical fiction book written by Laurie Halse Anderson tells the story of two enslaved girls, Isabel and her epileptic sister, Ruth. The book starts off with the two girls attending the funeral of their former owner who had just recently passed away, thinking that their master's will would give them the freedom that they deserve. However, a turn of events occur, and unfortunately an unscrupulous relative sells the girls off to the first customer who offers a decent price, a Loyalist couple from New York. When getting off the boat, Isabel meets Curzon, a slave to the well-known Patriot, Master Bellingham. Unlike most slavery-themed books, Chains takes place during the American Revolution, in 1776. During the revolutionary period, there were two sides: the Loyalists and the Patriots. Seeing that Isabel and her sister were auctioned off to serve the Loyalist couple, Curzon befriends Isabel and begs that she acts as a spy for the Patriots, in order to report any information that would be useful to them. In return, he ensured that she and her sister would eventually be free. At first she is weary of this plan, and disagrees. However, when later overhearing her master and his friends discuss about a plan to kill General Washington, she reports back to Curzon, who informs his master of everything. Over the span of many months, she overhears talks about the British ensuring freedom to the slaves who help in the war against the rebels. When not retrieving her freedom after giving the information to Curzon and his master, she quickly questions herself and her secret alliance to the Patriots, and immediately starts to change her mind. Throughout the book, the author portrays the characters in an absolutely outstanding manner. It was as if one was actually there in that time period with all of the characters. For example, she describes the main character as fierce, determined, and strong willed. These are common aspects of characters found in many books about slavery which are mostly used in order to portray a feeling of hope and optimism for the future. With her description of the character being so detailed it showed that the main character had been through a great deal of pain and hardship throughout the book. However, one thing that truly inspired me about the character was her will and determination to keep on going until the end, which was a constant theme in the book. Similarly to other books I have read about slavery, the main character starts out with the notion that if she works hard and diligently, her master will take a liking towards her and one day grant her freedom. However, to Isabel's dismay, Madam Lockton is brutal, and constantly tortures and abuses the girls. Anderson eloquently describes the treatment received to the two girls with descriptive words, feeling, and emotion. One specific event that struck me when reading the book was on page 148, when the author states "The man with the leather apron pinned my head against the wood. He stank of charcoal. I tried to pull away, but my hands and head were locked fast. The splinters chewed on me. Dandelions grew in the mud. The glowing iron streaked in front of my face like a comet. The crowd roared. The man pushed the hot metal against my cheek. It hissed and bubbled. Smoke curled under my nose." This part truly shocked me, as I did not know that branding was ethical and was used as a form of torture to slaves. Like many of her other books, the author masterfully writes the book in first person, and gives a voice to the teenage character, in this case being, Isabel, who undergoes different problems and changes in her life. However, despite all of these changes, she still has the courage and will to never give up, and has the audacity to always stay true to herself. All in all, her writing style is what kept the book intriguing, and what made me never want to put it down. When reading Chains, I was able to make many connections to books that I have focused on in my American Studies class. This quarter, we focused on topic of slavery and read the book: The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass himself. Throughout the book, I could see a lot of comparisons between the two main characters, Douglass and Isabel, in the way that they act and feel towards their masters. There is one specific event that showed this, which occurred when Frederick Douglass stood up to Master Covey. Similarly, on page 134, Isabel stands up to Madam Lockton and confronts her about the situation with Ruth. The author writes: "I took another step. `Answer me, you miserable cow. Did you sell my sister?' Madam backed up a step. Her letter fluttered to the bottom of the stairs. Her ancestors hung silent. `Stay away from me,' she said. `Get back to the kitchen.'" With all of the elements of torture, misery, hardship, and feelings of hopelessness that the main character had to undergo, I would highly recommend this book to anyone studying slavery in school. It is quite an easy read, and eloquently describes the situation during that time period. While many of us study slavery as occurring after the American Revolution, this book is a twist as it shows the situation during the wars and tension of the American Revolution. The author even includes a reading guide at the end of the book, which provides a set of questions to make readers think deeper about the plot and helps to form great discussion sessions.
Children in Bondage
By Jane E. Applebee on Nov 15, 2008
Chains was a deeply sad and interesting book about New York under siege and the lives of the people living there, in particular one young slave girl, Isabel Gardener, recently orphaned and trying desperately to protect her younger sister in their new master's household. While Laurie Halse Anderson paints the expected, a brave and noble slave child, she does not romanticize events or attempt to simplify the situation by choosing sides. There are no heroics, and only a deep stoicism rescues Isabel from madness at crucial moments. Isabel is living in a Tory household but works briefly as a spy for Rebels. Her loyalties tend toward the Rebels, but only because her only friend, another slave child, is working for them. The British and the Americans are shown as equally inhumane, as regards slavery. No one ever stands up for Isabel. The best Isabel gets is a bit of worthless pity now and then. The portrait of New York city at this historic time is confined to the daily walk Isabel takes to draw water and run errands. However, in the back of the book, Anderson elaborates on the factual information in a question and answer section, and there I found that New York was much smaller than I would have imagined, taking up just a small corner of the island, the rest still woods and swamp at that time. This is an excellent book for a mature 5th grader with a fairly high reading level. It is also great for middle-schoolers who will be studying the Revolutionary Era in depth in 8th grade. (I quite enjoyed it too, and I am 46.)
This is a good historical fiction book.
By Toki8th Grader on Oct 31, 2013
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson is a historical fiction novel. Chains is about a girl named Isabel and her younger sister Ruth, who are slaves during the American Revolution. Her master is a Loyalist, and she tries to gain her freedom by being a spy for the rebels. It takes place in New York in the 1770's. I thought it was a pretty good historical fiction book. I would rate it 3 and a half stars out of 5. I liked that there was a strong female main character. Also, a lot happens, so it isn't very slow moving. And its a historical fiction novel that was written recently so they don't use a lot of old fashioned words that are hard to understand. My favorite part was at the end when Isabel was running away because she had been trying a long time to be free. My favorite character was Ruth, Isabel's little sister. She's sweet and a good little sister. I felt bad for her because of how she's been treated. Some things I didn't like were that it's a series. I felt like there should have only been the one book. Also, there were a lot of characters; it was hard to keep track of who was who. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction that wasn't written a long time ago, or if a person likes books about slavery or the American Revolution. I think it is useful for an African American unit because the reader doesn't hear about how the slaves were affected by the revolution; this book shows what it was like for them.
By Collegegirl2015 on Mar 20, 2013
I bought this book to go through with a student I'm doing reading tutoring with. It is a wonderfully engaging historical fiction that is accessible for 6th grade and up. I love it as an educator.
By Dylan Lawrence on Jan 29, 2013
I had to read this book for a school assignment. At first it didn't look to good then when I read it I couldn't stop reading. I highly recommend this book to any reader.