Winner of the John Newbery Medal
Winner of the Coretta Scott King Author Award
An Indiebound Bestseller
A New York Times Bestseller
Award-winning author Amina Luqman-Dawson pens a lyrical, accessible historical middle-grade novel about two enslaved children’s escape from a plantation and the many ways they find freedom.
Under the cover of night, twelve-year-old Homer flees Southerland Plantation with his little sister Ada, unwillingly leaving their beloved mother behind. Much as he adores her and fears for her life, Homer knows there’s no turning back, not with the overseer on their trail. Through tangled vines, secret doorways, and over a sky bridge, the two find a secret community called Freewater, deep in the swamp.
In this society created by formerly enslaved people and some freeborn children, Homer finds new friends, almost forgetting where he came from. But when he learns of a threat that could destroy Freewater, he crafts a plan to find his mother and help his new home.
Deeply inspiring and loosely based on the history of maroon communities in the South, this is a striking tale of survival, adventure, friendship, and courage.
Amina Luqman-Dawson is the Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award-winning and bestselling author of Freewater and the pictorial history book Images of America: African Americans of Petersburg. Her op-eds on race and popular culture have appeared in The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, and more. She, her husband, and her son reside in Arlington, VA. Visit her online at aminaluqman-dawson.com.
“In Freewater, Amina Luqman Dawson shines a bright light on a little-known piece of history. Set against a forbidding landscape, the bright promise of freedom is illuminated in all its myriad shapes and forms. And it couldn’t be more timely. Solidly researched and beautifully written, this is storytelling at its finest. Dawson’s voice and the voices of her cast will linger long after the last page is closed.”—Kathi Appelt, National Book Award Finalist and Newbery Honor Winner
"A compelling, gripping story told in an imaginative and lyrical way, Freewater is a moving, powerful homage to the men, women, and children who rejected slavery and dared invent a free life in the American wilderness."—Dr. Sylviane A. Diouf, author of Slavery's Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons
"What a gorgeously told, thrilling, and deeply empowering story. Amina brings to life so vividly this important but overlooked chapter in history, in a way that all readers can relate to — and through the eyes of young characters so compelling you'll miss them when you put the book down. Not that you'll want to put it down, even for a second."—Meena Harris, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“With both stirring emotion and apparently effortless skill, Dawson braids the many compelling strands of this story into a stunning conclusion. A remarkable accomplishment—a sheer triumph of a book.”—Linda Sue Park, Newbery Medal winner and New York Times bestselling author
"This is detailed and well-researched historical fiction. The characters are varied, complex, and fully realized. . . .The page-turning action will engage readers as the story reaches a satisfying conclusion. An exceptional addition to the resistance stories of enslaved people."—Kirkus, starred review
"Skillfully drawing memorable characters and moving them towards an exciting, heartfelt resolution, Luqman-Dawson does not shy away from the realities of slavery. This lyrical story of hope, strength, and ingenuity will be gobbled up by young history buffs and adventure lovers. Direct your Christopher Paul Curtis and Avi fans this way."—Booklist, starred review
"When the town’s inhabitants undertake a liberation effort, the characters must build courage and overcome their fears in this vividly written, wholly accessible novel of enslavement and resistance."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"An engrossing, multi-perspective debut novel...[with] an explosive and cathartic conclusion."—Horn Book, starred review
"A well-written book that explores a relatively unknown piece of history....Filled with both hope and joy, it explores the families we are born into as well as the families we create."—School Library Connection, starred review
"Journalist and historian Amina Luqman-Dawson’s debut middle grade novel, Freewater, is historical fiction at its finest... A gripping, emotional story. Its short chapters and expert pacing seize the reader’s attention, and its young freedom-seeking protagonists are instantly engaging."—Bookpage