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North by Night: A Story of the Underground…

North by Night: A Story of the Underground Railroad (1998)

by Katherine Ayres

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255568,013 (3.62)8

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What a confusing book. Its length is typical of middle-grade (175 pages), and protagonist Lucy behaves like a typical twelve-year-old. The problem: Lucy is actually sixteen. She's caught in a love triangle and will have to choose between her suitors (and marry one of them) fairly soon, and yes, her dithering composes a large portion of the story.

Modern ideologies, especially the stereotypical Independent Woman Ahead of Her Time, creep into this historical novel rather often. The moralizing is heavy-handed even for middle-grade fiction but really doesn't work as young adult. I know, this isn't a young adult novel: for proof, see the cover. And the word count. And the existence of a subtitle. (And the back cover, which says reading level 5.0.)

I don't understand why the book was written this way, why Lucy is sixteen-going-on-twelve. Why the main secondary character Cass is a nineteen-year-old, escaped slave who is pregnant for the third time with a child of the white master who rapes her. Why so much of the book involves Lucy complaining about things like the weather and having to remind herself that Cass's life is worse than hers.

All that said, there are seeds of a good story here. An effort was made toward nineteenth-century diction. The devout faith of the Quakers--the cultural faith of all the characters--is an appreciated, historically accurate touch. Doubling the length (but not the dithering), aging the character behaviors appropriately, and deepening characterization past types might have made it worthwhile. As it is, too many things feel groundless or rushed. 2.5 stars. ( )
  AmandaGStevens | Mar 2, 2019 |
This book is about a 16 year old girl and her journey with the Underground Railroad, through a series of journal entries written by the 16 year old Lucinda Spencer. This is a truly outstanding book to read. Ayres has done some major research to include persons that were actually involved with the Underground Railroad. This book, greatly based on the written journals, takes you and transforms you into this young and scared little girl, puts you into her shoes, makes you live her life as she was living it.
Personal Experience
This book pulls you into the lives of Lucinda and the people in her life. Reminds me of the struggles some of my friends have today.
Extension Ideas
A really good way to show what African-Americans went through is these really bad and horrific times. May not be a good reading for some children, especially younger children, but extremely a very educational book to read. I have recommended my 9 year old daughter to venture into this book. ( )
  LeviLloyd | Mar 9, 2013 |
Presents the journal of a sixteen-year-old girl whose family operates a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Lexile: 750 [view chart]
  211Fern | Jan 11, 2011 |
North by Night is the story of Lucy Sepncer, a young woman of 16 years old, who for the last four years has been helping, with her family, fugitive slaves escape to Canada. Lucy is asked to help care for a family of runaway slaves in a neighbour's attic, one of which is pregnant and very sick, Cass. Despite warnings from her family, Lucy develops a friendship with Cass and teaches her how to write. When tragedy strikes Lucy has to make a difficult decision that may result in great loss. Themes throughout the book include independence, friendship, slavery, love, sacrifice, and death. ( )
  jbergeron | Jan 8, 2010 |
This book proved to be a page turner. Will Spencer has promised a friend (a runaway slave) that he will go to Kentucky to rescue his friend’s siblings from his owner. In the process, he meets slave-owners who are nice to him, and make him question the morality of his actions (is it ok to steal from them after they had been kind and generous to him?) The characters come to life in this novel from the perspective of a Caucasian boy helping his runaway friend. ( )
  mlarge | Aug 8, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 044022747X, Paperback)

It's 1851 and Lucy Spencer's family is keeping a secret. Their Ohio home is a station on the Underground Railroad, the network of people and places that helps fugitive slaves escape to freedom in Canada. Lucy believes in what she and her family do to help the fugitives, even if it means putting herself in danger.

So Lucy doesn't hesitate when she is asked to stay with the Widow Aurelia Mercer and help her with a family of runaway slaves hiding in her attic. And she learns so much from her experience--about growing up, love, and standing on her own. But what will Lucy do when she is asked to make the ultimate sacrifice and leave all she loves behind?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:44 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Presents the journal of a sixteen-year-old girl whose family operates a stop on the Underground Railroad.

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