Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews
A passion for education and freedom brings subversive ingenuity to life in 1847 St. Louis. Hopkinson reveals Rev. John Barry Meachum’s true history through the stories he tells the children of being born a slave (in 1789 in Virginia) and working in the saltpeter mines to purchase his own freedom and that of both parents, then walking hundreds of miles to liberate his wife. (The backmatter also reveals that Meachum bought and freed several other slaves.) When the police burst into the school to inform Rev. John that Missouri has passed a law forbidding blacks, slave or free, to read, he stops teaching temporarily. With James’ help, he uses his carpentry skills to build a steamboat on the Mississippi—federal property—in which his students can learn freely. Continue reading.
Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator: Ron Husband
Published by Disney-Hyperion on June 7th 2016
Genres: African American, Education, Historical Fiction, School
Reading Level: Grade K, Grades 1-2
Review Source: Kirkus Reviews
Also by this author: Carter Reads the Newspaper
Publisher's Synopsis: Missouri, 1847
When James first started school, his sister practically had to drag him there. The classroom was dark and dreary, and James knew everything outside was more exciting than anything he'd find inside.
But his teacher taught him otherwise.
"We make our own light here," Reverend Meachum told James.
And through hard work and learning, they did, until their school was shut down by a new law forbidding African American education in Missouri. Determined to continue teaching his students, Reverend John Berry Meachum decided to build a new school-a floating school in the Mississippi River, just outside the boundary of the unjust law.
Based on true events, Ron Husband's uplifting illustrations bring to life Deborah Hopkinson's tale of a resourceful, determined teacher; his bright, inquisitive students; and their refusal to accept discrimination based on the color of their skin.