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December 5, 2008

Dear Austin

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Dear Austin

Author: Elvira Woodruff

Page Length: 137

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Dear Austin is a story written in letters from one brother to another. 11 year old Levi is in Pennsylvania under the watchful eye of Miss Amelia until his healthy enough and old enough to travel. Levi’s adventures with his friends, taking those awful dance lessons, and witnessing the prejudice in his town are detailed. One day, Jupiter’s sister disappears. Everyone fears that she has been taken by slave traders. Jupiter and Levi embark upon a journey to save her before it’s too late. Undeterred by the dangers that lie ahead, they are determined to bring her back. Will they be able to find her or will they become victims themselves?

REVIEW: This book was an excellent look at what life might have been like for a young boy during the 1850’s. The language and habits of the townspeople are what one would expect from a rural setting. The author handles the topic of slavery well. The reader experiences first hand the prejudice and racist feelings of a lady in town; Woodruff also introduces the reader to what it would have been like standing on the auction block. The story is moving and the ending realistic. This book is a great tool for teaching about slavery and the Underground Railroad in general without examining the depth of the atrocities that took place.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, cause and effect, internal conflict, external conflict, foreshadowing, elements of plot, author’s purpose, connecting text to historical text, context clues

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: slave auction, racist remarks and treatment

RELATED BOOKS: Dear Levi, The Orphan of Ellis Island, The Mummy Maker, Children of the Longhouse, Night John

RELATED MOVIES: “Night John,” “Spartacus,” “North and South: The Collection”


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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