Corey Birdsong is a lively young boy in search of freedom in the same country that made an economy of slavery. He and his family are owned by the Hart family of Kentucky. But, when Corey's father, Roland, flees to the North and Corey and his mother follow. Corey records his daily life on the Hart farm with incredible insight and honesty, and later he describes the difficult journey along the "Underground Railroad" to the North to be reunited with his father. With the help of many kind strangers, Corey, his parents, and his new baby sister arrive afely in Canada.
With a peek into a nine-year-old boy's diary, readers gain a window into the lives of African-American slaves during Civil War times. Growing up on a plantation in Kentucky, Corey Birdsong lives a life of hard work and little freedom. Yet with his mother and father close by, his ability to read and write, and his love of nature, Corey seems to live a rather happy life. But when young Corey overhears his master's plan to sell his father, an adventure of daring escape and a flight for freedom begins. Traveling along the Underground Railroad, Corey and his mother journey to the Ohio River and onward to Canada to be reunited with Corey's father. Historically accurate details of signals, birdcalls, hiding stations and "conductors" along the Underground Railroad are seamlessly woven into Corey's diary to enhance the storyline and provide readers with a bit of history. Wyeth carefully presents an historical fiction that is true to the times without overwhelming young readers with the cruelty and horror of slavery. Whether used in the literature or history classroom, Corey's diary adds a personal voice to our American past. 2001, Scholastic, $8.95. Ages 8 to 10. Reviewer: Leah Hanson