Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule

Book – Fiction. By Harriette Gillem Robinet. 1998. 144 pages.
Historical fiction featuring 12-year-old Pascal, 8-year-old Nellie and their older brother Gideon, Union Army aide, as they claim and farm the land promised to them during Reconstruction.

  • Time Periods: Reconstruction Period: 1865 - 1876, 19th Century | Themes: Racism & Racial Identity | Reading Levels: Grades 6-8 | Resource Types: Books: Fiction

Like others recently freed from slavery, Pascal and his older brother Gideon have been promised forty acres and maybe a mule. With the family of friends they have built along the way, they claim a place of their own. Green Gloryland is the most wonderful place on earth, their own family farm with a healthy cotton crop and plenty to eat. But the notorious night riders have plans to take it away, threatening to tear the beautiful freedom that the two boys are enjoying for the first time in their young lives. Coming alive in plain, vibrant language is this story of the Reconstruction, after the Civil War. [Publisher’s description.]

“Once again, [Harriette Gillem] Robinet has humanized a little-known piece of American history. In the spring of 1865, the Freedmen’s Bureau approved a plan to give 40 acres of abandoned land to former slave families. Forty thousand freed people took advantage of that offer, only to lose their farms when it was withdrawn in September. The author focuses on Pascal, 12, enslaved on a plantation in South Carolina. His older brother Gideon, who ran away during the war, returns to collect him and they head for Georgia, determined to become landowners.

“Teaming up with Pascal’s friend Nelly and the elderly Mr. Freedman and his granddaughter, they form a family, claim land, and begin to farm. The Bibbs, white neighbors from Tennessee, are helpful in protecting them from the night riders who are determined to destroy black-owned farms. Despite their hard work, Pascal and the others are evicted at the end of the summer. Luckily, Gideon had found a treasure buried under a tree, and they set out to buy land on the Georgia Sea Islands. Pascal is a likable boy whose withered hand and leg limit his body but not his mind and whose dreadful jokes entertain everyone. The dialect may deter some readers at first, but sympathy for the characters will keep children going until they reach the satisfying ending.” —Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, D.C., in the School Library Journal

Winner of the 1999 Scott O’Dell Award for historical fiction for children.

ISBN: 9780689833175 | Published by Alladin.

More historical fiction for young adults by Harriette Gillem Robinet.

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