Nancy Keane Booktalk
About these books
Based on true stories before and after the Civil War, Elisa Carbone presents
two courageous characters that come face-to- face with prejudice and bigotry
and struggle to make new lives for themselves.
Ann Marie Weems, the main character in Stealing Freedom, is born a slave on a small Maryland farm where her family lives and works for the Price family. The Weems family endures cruelty common to all slaves during the preñCivil War era, but Ann faces the ultimate mistreatment when she is separated from her family. Armed with courage and determination, Ann accepts an offer to travel via the dangerous Underground Railroad to Canada in an effort to steal her freedom.
Set on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the late 1890s, Storm Warriors tells the story of a different type of racism. Nathan lives with his father and grandfather on Pea Island and dreams of becoming a storm warrior, one of those who fought the sea, wind, and storms to bring sailors home safely, but postñCivil War racism threatens his chance to fulfill his dream unless he can find a way to win the battle.
In the Classroom
The historical setting, the very real characters, and the strong sense of story make these novels by Carbone excellent choices for read-aloud or class novel study. Please note that these books do not need to be discussed together. Each title represents strong content that can be taught independent of one another, but the themes in both are similar enough to conduct a dual book study.
Discussion questions related to the themes of courage, freedom, prejudice and bigotry, and family offer students the opportunity to think about the tough choices that African Americans faced in the 1800s during pre- and post-Civil War times. This guide also offers activities that link the language arts, social studies, science, music, and art curriculum.
Stealing Freedom is set before the Civil War, and Storm Warriors is
set post-Civil War in the late 1800s. Engage students in a discussion
regarding the treatment of African Americans during these times. Ask them to
make a split-screen collage that contrasts the way African Americans lived pre- and
post-Civil War. Encourage them to use photocopied pictures, writing, quotations,
etc. in their collages.
Freedom, Ann wonders, "which required more courage: to be a fugitive,
or to be the one to help the fugitive to safety." (p. 213) Engage the class
in a discussion about the courage it took for both parties.
Ask students to consider which required more courage in Storm Warriors: to be the rescuer or the rescued? Nathan says, "I know it takes courage to meet a storm head on. . . ." (p. 74, Storm Warriors) Compare and contrast Ann and Nathan's courage. What is Ann's "storm"?
students to explain what Ann's father means when he says, "Anyone
born a slave gets their freedom stolen the day they're born." (p.
19, Stealing Freedom) What is the irony in the phrase "stealing freedom"?
When Ann is in hiding at Mr. Bigelow's house, she says, "How strange
it felt to be free and yet to be a prisoner." (p. 163, Stealing Freedom)
Compare Ann's feeling to Nathan's in Storm Warriors. What is Nathan's prison? Figuratively, how does Nathan have to steal his freedom?
Prejudice and Bigotry--Stealing Freedom is set pre-Civil War when mistreatment of African Americans was overt, whereas Storm Warriors is set post-Civil War when racial prejudice was present but less obvious. How might Nathan's Grandpa identify with the bigotry that Ann feels in Stealing Freedom?
Have the class read the "Author's Note" at the end of Storm Warriors. How did racial prejudice and bigotry contribute to the fact that the keeper and the crew of the Pea Island Life-Saving Station weren't honored with the Gold Life-Saving Medal until 100 years later?
Family--Ask students to discuss how the Weems family in Stealing Freedom has a stronger sense of family than the Price family. Define the term "extended family." How do the people involved with the Underground Railroad become a surrogate family to Ann? Describe Nathan's family in Storm Warriors. Discuss how the surfmen on Pea Island might be considered an extended family for Nathan.
Language Arts--In pre-Civil War days, it was against the law to teach a slave to read. Ann learns to read when she tends to Sarah, a relative of Master Charles and Mistress Carol. Read Nightjohn or Sarny: A Life Remembered by Gary Paulsen. Write a letter that Ann might write to Nightjohn or Sarny commending them for their work in teaching African Americans to read.
In Storm Warriors, Nathan feels extremely close to his grandfather.
He listens to his grandfather's stories and wishes that his grandfather's
dreams could have been fulfilled. Ask students to assume the role of Nathan and
write a tribute to be read at his grandfather's funeral.
Social Studies--In Stealing Freedom, Ann travels by the Underground Railroad
to Canada. Have students construct a map of Eastern United States and indicate
the major routes of the Underground Railroad. Using clues from the novel, plot
the route that Ann Weems possibly traveled.
The United States Life-Saving Service later became the United States Coast Guard. Ask students to research the history of the Coast Guard. Then have them develop a timeline of the work of the United States Coast Guard, from its birth on August 4, 1790, to the present.
Music--Ann Weems loves to sing. Ask students to locate and learn some of the African American
work songs and spirituals that Ann may have sung. Also have students find seafaring
songs that Nathan may have enjoyed in Storm Warriors.
States postage stamps often honor outstanding and courageous Americans. Have
students find pictures of postage stamps that have honored African Americans.
Then have them design a stamp that honors the Pea Island Life-Saving crew.
men at the Pea Island Life-Saving Station in Storm Warriors communicate
using Morse code. Ask students to research Samuel Morse. How might Morse code
be considered an early life-saving device? What signals and codes do ships and
life-saving stations use today?
In Storm Warriors, Nathan takes books from the Life-Saving Station
and learns about medical treatments that might be necessary in rescue missions.
Have students research the type of first-aid materials that might have been available
in the late 1890s. Then have them construct a first-aid kit that might be used
in rescue missions today. How have first-aid measures changed in the past 100
Vocabulary/Use of Language
Ask students to record unfamiliar words and try to define the words using clues from the context of the story. In Stealing Freedom, such words may include ferreting (p. 44), lecherous (p. 45), mulatto (p. 73), guano (p. 76), apparition (p. 97), placid (p.113), exorbitant (p. 158), and daguerreotype (p. 213).
In Storm Warriors, such words may include phantom (p. 15), vermilion (p. 18), resuscitation (p. 19), hypothermia (p. 72), vendue (p. 95), seine (p. 111), and rogue (p. 136).
Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, South Carolina
Reviews for Stealing Freedom
*"A deftly crafted story with a strong, appealing heroine."--Starred, School Library Journal
*"Imaginatively and sensitively adapted from historical records, Stealing Freedom will evoke admiration for the courage of both those who resisted slavery and those who endured it."--Starred, Publishers Weekly
Review for Storm Warriors
"This is a beautifully told story, marked by convincing, distinctive characters and stirring descriptions of the surfmen's highly skilled and highly dangerous work."--School Library Journal