Picture Book Review: Freedom Ship of Robert Smalls

The Freedom Ship of Robert Smalls by Louise Meriwether
The Freedom Ship of Robert Smalls (Young Palmetto Books) 
by Louise Meriwether, Jonathan Green

3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


Robert Smalls is born as a slave, but the chaos of the American Civil War gives him a one-in-a-million chance to escape to freedom with his family. A moving true story of how one man had the ingenuity and determination that inspired others to join him in a desperate flight towards a free life.

I loved this story! Robert Smalls was so brave and smart. He persevered through many obstacles to protect his family and friends and help them escape together. I was captivated by his touching story!
But I found a few typos in the writing. These might be changed as newer editions are published. And sometimes the writing felt flat and simplified for a very young audience. I think the story could have been told for a slightly older reader, and would have been more engaging with a little more depth to the story, and more historical details.

I also did not like the illustrations. They’re done in a mushy kind of style that’s a little blurry. The colors are garish and blend together, so that I had to stare at the page for a bit to figure out what I was seeing. There aren’t many clear lines, and it makes some of the aspects of the scene confusing. Is that a tree limb hanging OVER the water, or a fallen log floating IN the water? I don’t know. It’s too blurry to tell.
Is that the person’s mouth? No, wait that’s their beard. I think? 🤔

Also several of the illustrations do not line up with the subject of the writing on the same page. The writing says all the people are on a boat, but the adjacent illustration shows a woman running through an orchard. ??? Where did SHE come from? Why isn’t there a picture of them all on the boat?
Three or four of the illustrations look almost the same too. Showing the same scene from slightly different angles. Why am I looking at the exact same boat again? Why can’t I see inside the boat? Or inside the fort? Or a picture of the sentries? Or a picture of the slaves hiding below? Out of all the possible scenes to paint, you had to show me the same one four times?? Lazy.

The story itself is wonderful! The writing is just okay, not great. The illustrations are disappointing and confusing.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for a free and honest review. All the opinions stated here are my owntrue thoughts, and are not influenced by anyone.

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