Willow

Tonya Cherie Hegamin, Author
Tonya Cherie Hegamin. Candlewick, $16.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5769-7
Reviewed on: 11/11/2013
Release date: 02/11/2014
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Ebook - 384 pages - 978-0-7636-6770-2
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A solid historical foundation, strong characterizations, and lyrical descriptions highlight Hegamin’s rich novel about slavery and black/white relations before the Civil War. Set in 1848 on the border of the Mason-Dixon line, the story follows two black teenagers: a motherless 15-year-old slave, Willow, and an educated 17-year-old freeborn boy, Cato, passionate about helping fugitive slaves. Eventually their paths cross, but even then the focus remains strongly on Willow and her struggle between being a devoted daughter and fifth-generation slave on Knotwild Plantation and her hunger for education. Willow is taught to read and write by the fair-minded and kind master, Reverend Jeffries, and her poetic voice resonates from the opening pages: “The tree bowed to the edge of the river in such a polite way that it looked as though the tree were asking the river for a waltz.” Hegamin (M+O 4EVR) creates a broad spectrum of believable black characters, while white roles (excepting Rev Jeff) are relatively minor and rarely sympathetic. Tension and suspense infuse the book, but build most effectively in the final scenes, when freedom seems unattainable. Engrossing and educational. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jeff Dwyer, Dwyer & O’Grady. (Feb.)
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