Hello, internet friends! 
Niki & Christine, here! This is the first Peachtree post of the year and the debut post of this brilliant (and oh-so-humble) blogging duo. (More on us later, but feel free to get in touch in the meantime! @PeachtreePub)
As this is our first official meeting, we don’t want to overwhelm you with the heights of awesome that ITWOPP is about reach. We’re firm believers in delayed gratification here at Peachtree, so we’ll ration out the cool beans over the next few months. But today we do have a few special treats for you!
  1. A fabulous book trailer for The Other Side of Free (Made by the author!)
  2. Insight into the inspiration behind & writing of The Other Side of Free (Compiled by Christine who—fun fact—was a children’s librarian in a past life.)
  3. A roundup of excellent Peachtree titles (with Teacher’s Guides!) for use in teaching themes and events associated with Black History Month


Black History Month
February is a month we set aside to celebrate black Americans who have played significant roles in shaping their own times and the country we’ve become.

Thanks to the bravery of people like Booker T. Washington, Condoleezza Rice, Louis Armstrong, Jackie Robinson, and Barack Obama, we’ve come a long way from the 1926 origins of Black History Month. We’ve come even further since the slavery, civil war, and black oppression of the 18th and 19th centuries.

In honor of such great American figures, and in order to pass along the hard-learned lessons of our country’s past, we’ve pulled together a few titles to share with the young (and not-so-young) readers in your life.
The Other Side of Free
Jem has escaped from slavery. Now it’s up to him to decide what he believes, who he trusts, and what freedom really means…
What was the inspiration behind Russell’s work? Christine did some digging and here’s what she found!
 The Other Side of Free


Krista Russell states that her book began with a relic that was discovered at St. Mose, but is now held at the Florida Museum of Natural History.


In her middle grade historical fiction novel, The Other Side of Free, Phaedra wears this relic around her neck. Such attention to detail comes from a heavily researched topic, and Russell shares both her sources in the bibliography at the end of the book, as well as a primary sources sectionon her website.


This site gives curious young readers a glimpse into primary sources such as the medallion, and how authors use them to research history.  A map and glossary sound out the additional resources that support the main idea of the book and make it a great CCSS appropriate title for sixth grade.
The Roundup
Want more? Here are a few titles that highlight freedom stories, inspiring biographies, and African American history.
Ages 4 – 8
 Dad Jackie and Me
It is the summer of 1947 and a highly charged baseball season is underway in New York. Jackie Robinson is the new first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers – and the first black player in Major League Baseball. A young boy shares the excitement of Robinson’s rookie season with his deaf father.


Ages 6-10
14 Cows for America

In June of 2002, a very unusual ceremony begins in a far-flung village in western Kenya. An American diplomat is surrounded by hundreds of Maasai people. A gift is about to be bestowed upon the American men, women, and children, and he is there to accept it. The gift is as unexpected as it is extraordinary. A mere nine months have passed since the September 11 attacks, and hearts are raw. Tears flow freely from American and Maasai as these legendary warriors offer their gift to a grieving people half a world away.  Word of the gift will travel newswires around the globe. Many will be profoundly touched, but for Americans, this selfless gesture will have deeper meaning still. For a heartsick nation, the gift of fourteen cows emerges from the choking dust and darkness as a soft light of hope—and friendship. Master storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy hits all the right notes in this elegant story of generosity that crosses boundaries, nations, and cultures. An afterword by Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah—the Maasai warrior at the center of the story—provides additional information about his tribe and their generous actions. Thomas Gonzalez’s stunning paintings, which are saturated with rich hues of oranges, browns, blues, and greens, capture the modest nobility of the Maasai people and the distinctive landscape of the African plain.


Jingle Bells

It is November 1857 in Savannah, Georgia, and the heat is stifling. Choir director James Lord Pierpont is busy writing a song for the children of the church to perform to usher in the holiday season. He is also worried. Many townspeople are angry because the congregation does not believe in slavery, and someone has thrown a brick through one of the church windows.  As Mr. Pierpont sweeps up the glass from the broken window, he recalls his own Boston childhood, the sound of sleigh bells, and the fun of riding in a sleigh through the snow. Suddenly he gets an idea. A few days later – with the happy sounds of children singing and jingling bells and bags of “snow” – Mr. Pierpont introduces the delighted churchgoers to the charms of a northern Christmas!


Sweet Land of Liberty
This inspiring story of little-known civil rights champion Oscar Chapman and his role in Marian Anderson’s concert at the Lincoln Memorial reminds readers that one person can truly make a difference.


Keep On
Many know the story of Robert Peary’s great 1909 expedition to reach the North Pole. Yet few people know that Peary was joined on this grueling, history-making journey by fellow explorer Matthew Henson. Henson was born just after the Civil War, a time when slavery had been abolished, but few opportunities were available for black people. Even as a child, he exhibited a yearning for adventure, and at the age of only thirteen, he embarked on a five-year voyage sailing the seven seas and learning navigation, history, and mathematics. Henson’s greatest adventure began when he accepted an invitation from Robert Peary to join his expedition to the North Pole. The team endured storms, shifting ice, wind, injuries, accidents, and unimaginable cold. Finally on April 1, Peary, Henson, and four Inuit men began the final 133-mile push to the Pole.  Readers will share in the excitement and drama of this remarkable adventure as award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson pays tribute to a great but under-recognized figure from America’s past. Illustrator Stephen Alcorn’s large-format, stylized ink-and-watercolor illustrations capture all the action. Excerpts from Henson’s expedition diaries, a time line, and an epilogue place the story in its historical context.


Ages 7 – 11

A Storm Called Katrina

Louis Daniel hates it when Mama treats him like a baby. But when Hurricane Katrina blows through the Gulf Coast on a fateful August night, Louis feels like a little kid again.  With no time to gather their belongings – except Louis’s beloved horn – Daddy leads the family from their home and into an unfamiliar, watery world of floating debris, lurking critters, and desperate neighbors heading for dry ground.  Taking shelter in the already-crowded Superdome, Louis and his parents wait…and wait. Conditions continue to worsen and their water supply is running out. When Daddy fails to return from a scouting mission within the Dome, Louis knows he’s no longer a baby. It’s up to him to find his father – with the help of his prized cornet.


Ages 8 – 12
Crossing Jordan

A moving, coming-of-age story of a young white girl who overcomes family prejudice and cultural differences when she befriends a black girl in a small working-class town.


The Everlasting Now
James Longstreet Sayre, known to all as Brother, lives with his mother and sister in their well-run if run-down boardinghouse. The men who board there work for the Southern Railroad and Brother loves listening to their stories—especially to Mr. Edwards, the railroad engineer. But Brother’s life is changed forever when he meets Champion Always Luckey, a black boy his own age who has been sent from Detroit to live with his aunt, who works for Brother’s family. With Champion, Brother learns all sorts of things—how to fish, that he needs glasses, and that there are subtle and powerful rules of race and power that he’s never noticed. A child of privilege, Brother has never questioned the ways of his small southern town—but now he has reason to. Sara Harrell Banks sets her dramatic story of an adolescent friendship during a troubled, complex time in our nation’s history. Readers will be easily drawn into the action and learn a valuable lesson in Depression-era Southern history, when resources were scarce and segregation was firmly in place.

Gabriel's Triumph

In the first book of this engrossing middle-grade trilogy set during the Civil War, a young Kentucky slave dares to pursue his dream of becoming a jockey.
In the second book in the Racing to Freedom trilogy, ex-slave Gabriel faces challenges and setbacks as he pursues his dream of becoming a famous jockey.
In the final book of the Racing To Freedom trilogy, ex-slave Gabriel leaves behind a successful horse racing career to join his parents at Camp Nelson, where his father is a Sergeant in the Fifth US Colored Calvary of the Union Army.

Lost Goat Lane

For Kate, being poor in a small rural Florida town means feeling ashamed and isolated. Her classmates laugh at her old clothes and worn shoes and Kate’s mother is working long hours at a dairy farm to keep food on the table. But one day, Kate meets the Wilsons, a tight knit, middle-class African-American family. Kate is particularly drawn to Ruby, the glamorous grown daughter who has returned home from New York City. As Kate begins to spend time with Ruby in town, she becomes aware of the undercurrent of discrimination and prejudice that runs through her community and the complex roles of race and class in her own relationships.
Charlie wants two things he can’t get: to make the local Wildcats Baseball team and to have life to return to the way it was before his father died two years earlier in the Korean War. Then Charlie meets Luther, a stranger who quietly and mysteriously arrives in town and sets up camp near the river. Luther is a former Negro Baseball League player, and Charlie loves baseball. The two strike up a friendship and Luther agrees to coach Charlie’s fledgling neighborhood baseball team for a game against the Wildcats. But many of Holden’s white residents are suspicious of Luther because of his skin color. And when Charlie inadvertently reveals a secret of Luther’s, violence erupts in the town and both Luther and Charlie are drawn into serious danger.

Chasing the Nightbird

As the son of the famous Black Jack Valera, the best whaler on the eastern seaboard, thirteen-year-old Lucky Valera has led a charmed and happy life at sea. Following his father’s death, Lucky is kidnapped and pressed into a life of servitude by his cruel and embittered half brother, Fortuna. He immediately puts Lucky to work under harsh conditions in a textile mill and confiscates the boy’s wages. But when Lucky meets Emmeline, a spirited girl with abolitionist sympathies, and Daniel, a fugitive slave from the South, his dream for a return to his old life of freedom and the sea seems to be within reach. That is, if he and his new friends can outwit and outrun Fortuna and an enraged slave trader, both of whom will stop at nothing to get back what they believe is their rightful property.

The Other Side of Free

It is 1739. Young Jem has been rescued from slavery and finds himself at Fort Mose, a settlement in Florida run by the Spanish. He is in the custody of an ornery and damaged woman named Phaedra, who dictates his every move. When Jem sets out to break free of her will, an adventure begins in which Jem saves a baby owl, a pair of runaway slaves, and, eventually, maybe all the residents of Fort Mose.  While Jem and the other characters are fictitious, the story is based on historical record. Fort Mose was the first legally sanctioned free African settlement in what is now the United States. In 1994 the site was designated a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2009, the National Park Service named Fort Mose a precursor site on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.


Blessed with a strong will, an eager mind, and a deep belief in the promise of freedom and justice for all, young former slave Ida never turned away from the challenges she faced. And when she became a journalist, she used her position to speak out about injustice. But Ida’s greatest challenge arose after one of her friends was lynched. How could one headstrong young woman help free America from the “shadow of lawlessness” that loomed over the country?   

We've Got a Job

The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March was a turning point in American history. In the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, the fight for civil rights lay in the hands of children like Audrey Hendricks, Wash Booker, James Stewart, and Arnetta Streeter.  Through the eyes of these four protesters and others who participated, We’ve Got a Job tells the little-known story of the 4,000 black elementary, middle, and high school students who voluntarily went to jail between May 2 and May 11, 1963. The children succeeded – where adults had failed – in desegregating one of the most racially violent cities in America.  By combining in-depth, one-on-one interviews and extensive research, author Cynthia Levinson recreates the events of the Birmingham Children’s March from a new and very personal perspective.  
Thanks for tuning in, and happy celebrating!
N & C