Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Book Review: "Martha's Freedom Train" by C. LaRene Hall

By Nichole Giles

In honor of Pioneer Day, a Utah State Holiday celebrating the day the Mormon pioneers finally crested the mountains and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, I’m proud and honored to be reviewing this remarkable debut book by my good friend, C. LaRene Hall.

Cover Blurb:

With help from the Underground Railroad, Martha and her parents escape slavery. Because of her mamma’s poor health, Martha’s heart almost breaks when her papa sends her west with a wagon train of strangers. Along the way, she helps put out a fire, and after falling asleep beside the trail, is accidentally left behind. Upon reaching her destination, Martha wonders if she’ll ever see her mamma and papa again.

Martha’s Freedom Train is a wonderful little story about a slave girl who runs away with her parents in hope of finding a better life. Though her parents don’t make it very far, Martha ends up traveling west with a Mormon wagon train, in the company of an elderly woman Martha calls Grandma Miller.

Though Martha is heartbroken to leave her family behind, she comes to love the people with whom she is traveling, and they come to love her. She learns so much during her journey, like how to make buffalo jerky, prickly pear jelly, and journey cakes. One of the travelers takes on the role of teacher, and Martha has a rare opportunity to learn how to read and write. Grandma Miller even gives Martha her very own copy of the Book of Mormon.

Martha makes it all the way to the Salt Lake Valley with the pioneers, and even spends some time in Southern Utah helping plant crops. She learns more about religion, and discovers that she truly is a child of God, regardless of the color of her skin.

This little chapter book is such a fun, easy story to read. It’s well written, well researched, and the characters are enchanting. Also, the pencil illustrations are way fun. Though it’s perfect for six to twelve-year-old readers, I found it a delightful story and thoroughly enjoyed reading it myself. I’ll keep this one on my personal shelf—and my kids will have to borrow my copy. Or better yet, maybe I’ll get them their own so they’ll leave mine alone.

In case your interested in the life of the author, I interviewed her this morning, asking her questions that I felt would help me see into the deepest recesses of her soul.

Hi Connie! Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to visit with me today. I just have a few questions and then you can get back to writing your next book.

NG: What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? Today, my new favorite is Ben and Jerry’s Key Lime Pie

CLH: I like a lot of flavors, but don’t eat a lot of ice cream. I love peach sherbet and also chocolate chip shakes. I also like hot fudge sundaes.

NG: Who is your favorite author? (Besides yourself or me.)

CLH: That’s a hard one. I love variety and I read a lot so I don’t always stick with one author. My answer would probably be the author of the book I’m presently reading. Right now that would be Loyalty’s Web by Joyce DiPastena. If the book is good, has no bad scenes or language I usually like it. Something historical is generally my preference.

NG: What is your most favorite thing to do when you’re not writing?

CLH: More than anything in the world I love to travel, but since I don’t always have the time or money I have to say my favorite thing is reading. When I read I can go anywhere I want and it doesn’t cost much. Also I can go places that people only dream about.

NG: If you were an animal, what kind would you be and why?

CLH: I love animals, and like people they are all different. Sometimes I’d love to be a kangaroo so I could hop all over. Other times I think a big cat like a tiger or lion would be great fun. Of course, a giraffe with a long neck so I could see off in the distance would be advantageous. Many days I’d love to soar in the air like an eagle. Wouldn’t it be fun to see the world from way up high every day. I just wouldn’t want to be a spider or any creature like that because people are always killing them.

NG: Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?

CLH: I love the diamond my husband gave me on our wedding day. It’s small and just right for me. I don’t like big or bulky jewelry. Pearls are pretty, but unless they are real small they aren’t for me. Of course, I love seeing fancy rings and necklaces on other people, and on occasion I do wear a little jewelry, just not often.

NG: Name one or two power snacks that keep you going as you write.

CLH: My all time favorite snack is chocolate. I’m not sure if that’s a power snack or not, but it keeps me going. The chocolate can be almost anything; candy, donuts, brownies, or cookies. If it’s chocolate I like it.

Thanks for the visit, and the answers to what makes an author tick.

Now for the fun part! This book is brand new off the printing press and I have a signed copy to give away in a drawing, just in time for Pioneer Day.

Here’s what you do:

1. Pay my good friend C. LaRene Hall a visit at her blog and become a follower, then come back here and leave me a comment telling me you signed up.

2. Leave me a comment telling me why you think it’s important for our children to learn about history—such as slavery, the Underground Railroad, and pioneers.

3. Pass the following link to all your friends through Facebook or Twitter, telling them to check out C. LaRene’s fabulous new book. Link:

You have three opportunities to get your name in the drawing, and one week to get it done. On Thursday, July 29th, I’ll use a random generator to draw one lucky winner who will get their very own signed copy of “Martha’s Freedom Train.”

Good luck!

To buy your copies of Martha's Freedom Train, click here.


L.T. Elliot said...

In my opinion, history will always be important to learn from. If we don't pay attention to our past, how will we ever learn to avoid its pitfalls? Also, it helps give one perspective and gratitude. When we see where our forebearers have been and have what they've suffered to get us where we are today, I think we're filled with gratitude for what we have.
Well, that's my take.

Thanks for this post. I've followed on over at Connie's place and I did mention it on facebook. =] Best of success, Connie! So kind of you to do this, Nichole!

Ali said...

Wow. Someone seriously needs to take me out and give me a good ol' whupin' cuz somehow I missed really knowing anything about Connie's book.

This book sounds wonderful and I definitely need to get my hands on a copy.

Thanks for this awesome review Nichole. And yep, I'm a Connie-follower!

Stephanie Humphreys said...

Great interview! I enjoyed it. I just became a follower on Connie's blog and posted the link on facebook.

I love to teach my children about history because it gives them a greater understanding about why the world around them is the way it is. It also helps them see that their own problems might not be so bad after all.

Ronda Hinrichsen said...

I believe it's good for children-- well, all of us, really--to learn of and remember the sacrifices of our ancestors, partly because it teaches us to be grateful. And partly because it can help us see what is really important.

lachish said...

It doesn't matter whether I win or not, Connie is a very sweet gal, and I promised to find her at a book signing and buy a copy. I met Connie in a critique group sometime last year.

I think this type of subject matter is critical for the youth of our day to understand. They need to get out from under the rock of video games / TVs / texting / etc. and understand where they came from. Many people sacrificed a great deal for their families and for each other in yesteryears, and our youth today are beneficiaries of all their hard work. It will do our youth some good to learn about the hardships of these folks.

I wish Connie all the best!

I did the facebook thing and the blog thing too.

Daron Fraley

Rebecca Talley said...

I became one of Connie's followers.

I tried posting the link on Facebook but oculdn't get it to work (though I saw that Daron Fraley got it to work properly). I'll keep trying.

I think it's important to learn about history so we can appreciate those who've gone before us. It also helps us to get to know and understand others, especially ancestors, when we read about them. And, related to that, it's important for us to write our own histories so our posterity can learn from our experiences. History is fascinating and we all know the saying, "If you don't learn history, you are doomed to repeat it." We can learn from others' mistakes as well as gain great knowledge as we study history.

I'm excited to read Connie's book and learn mote about the underground railroad and slavery.

Rachelle said...

Great contest. I loved the review and fun questions.
I'm a follower of Connie's blog :)
And I think history is important on so many levels for our children. History of religion, politics, culture, it all provides a backdrop to our life.

Cindy Beck said...

Thanks for the review and interview. Nice job on it!

"Martha's Freedom Train" is such a charming book. I just read it yesterday, and posted a contest to win a free copy of it, too.