Day of Tears

Author: Julius Lester
My recommended reading age: 11  and up (due to the subject matter)
Guided reading level: W
Interest Level: grade 6-9
Historical Fiction

This heart wrenching story is based on the on the largest slave auction in history.  In order to pay off his gambling debts, Pierce Butler sells off most of his slaves.  While he has promised not to sell his daughter's 12 year old care giver, Emma, he impulsively decides at the last minute to do just that.  Emma is torn away from her parents, never even getting to say goodbye to her mother.  The story continues through the next several years as Emma works for her new master, eventually runs away, and marries.  Lester gives a great insight into the thoughts of each of his characters by narrating from their individual points of view.

First I have to say that whoever thought slavery was a good idea is totally beyond me. It is maddening to read about the attitudes of white people towards other human beings. Reading the list of "slave prices" the auctioneer touts totally broke my heart. 

Other book experts have suggested a reading age of  9-12.  I choose to recommend this book to a more mature audience because of the subject matter.  There wasn't anything graphic or offensive, but younger kids may not be ready to hear about babies being sold away from their parents just because they had dark skin. The book does use the "N" word, which is offensive, but was historically accurate for the time period.  This was an excellent read.


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