Book Reviews: Journey to a Promised Land by Allison Lassieur and Three Twigs for the Campfire by Joseph Cognard

Journey to a Promised Land (I Am America)
A Story of the Exodusters
Allison Lassieur
Jolly Fish Press, January 2019
ISBN 978-1631632761
Trade Paperback

Hattie has a dream. A far-reaching fantasy, some would say, but she knows she can find a way. She will become a teacher.

The spring of 1879 tried to bring a fresh start to a new world in Nashville, Tennessee. Although each of Hattie’s parents had been born into slavery, both obtained an education immediately following the Civil War. Her father works just as hard today, but for it is himself and his family and in his very own black-smith shop. Her mother happily runs the household and Hattie contributes, too. Not only a stand-out student, she also earns money for her family by mending for Miss Bradford.

It’s a good enough life for Hattie. She knows, of course, that recently, black folks have been joining together to make the journey to Kansas. Tales of towns with nothing but black faces tempt her parents and Mr. Singleton sure has been working hard to convince her family to make the move to Nicodemus, a small town being established and in need of a blacksmith.

It isn’t until her father leaves the house for a meeting about the potential move that it hits Hattie. She’s heard stories of what happens to black men who dare attend these gatherings. And suddenly, she is scared for her father. After seeing him on the receiving end of retaliation—Nat had the audacity to charge a white man for his work—Hattie understands the very real danger they are in.

Loathe to miss school, Hattie could not have imagined the education she would receive during her journey. Seeing the stark differences between the group of black travelers when compared to almost every clump of white men, was a shock. Whereas individual black people intuitively worked towards the greater good of their party, sharing the last crumbs and caring for those in need; the freakish faction of inexplicably angry, willfully ignorant and hella hateful white men appeared to unite solely to terrorize black citizens.

I wish I could put a copy of this heroic historical fiction in every single classroom. It is that good and unquestionably, that vital. Although Hattie’s family may be a figment of the author’s imagination, Benjamin “Pap” Singleton was very real and invaluably instrumental in helping hundreds of African Americans move from Tennessee to Kansas.

Ms. Lassieur shares this story of the Exodusters by popping the reader right into the mule-driven wagon to bear witness to the atrocious, senseless acts against black people. But she also demonstrates the intuitive kindness, generosity and strength of each and every black person, automatically reminding everyone to continue the good fight. Oh, and I can’t wait for you to find out why the emigrants were dubbed “Exodusters”.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2019.

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Three Trees for the Campfire
Joseph Cognard
CreateSpace, January 2013
ISBN 978-1482320985
Trade Paperback

At first, I want to judge this book by its cover. The campfire calls to me, then captivates as I notice it’s not at simple as it seems. But before I know it, I’m completely caught up in the quintessential summer read.

Three siblings surround the glowing embers to swap stories and sleep under the stars. Billy, being the youngest, is participating (fully) for the first time, so being in his head at the beginning perfectly sets the scene.

“Billy began to worry that, like the fire, he might not make it through the night.”

The eldest, Jack, begins with a fantastic tale featuring a dragon. When Chelsea follows with her own natty narrative, she subtly weaves in bits and pieces from her brother’s story in a sweet (but not corny) kind of way. Billy may be bringing up the rear, but he can spin a yarn as well as his siblings. And he’s pretty slick about bringing in a real-life character.

Authentic and relatable, in a dreamy sort of way, I thoroughly enjoyed this tiny tome that probably fits best in the Juvenile Fiction genre, but I can easily imagine anyone enjoying it.

Huge thank-you to the author for sharing this with me!

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2018.

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Book Review: The Moth: 50 True Stories edited by Catherine Burns

The MothThe Moth: 50 True Stories
A Collection from Hyperion
Catherine Burns, ed.
Hyperion, September 2013
ISBN 978-1401311117
Trade Paperback

An unbelievably awesome collection of fifty true stories, The Moth is the first book that I’ve read that I can unabashedly, enthusiastically, recommend to absolutely anyone and everyone. Far surpassing a giant bag of Hershey’s Miniatures, this genuinely has something for everyone.

This book pulls 50 stories from the archives of the not-for-profit organization The Moth; which was founded in 1997 and dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. You may have heard one or more of the thousands of stories, historically told live, without notes by varied individuals from all backgrounds, to a packed audience on your NPR station. If not, I bet you, like me, will end up searching for at least one in the archives after reading his/her story.

Story tellers range from Darryl of Run DMC, to acclaimed reporter, one of 2005 Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, Malcolm Gladwell. We hear from an airline stewardess, a man who worked a record-setting four years as a volunteer for a suicide hot-line, and the one that I’ve retold the most: a dad, desperately trying to communicate with his teen-aged son and grossly misunderstanding, therefore constantly misusing, “LOL”.

I will share a word of warning. If you are like me and my new Goodreads bud, JM Snyder, you read books in public. In this case, maybe have a travel pack of tissues handy, because some storytellers will move you to tears, and others will have you laughing until the tears are rolling down your cheeks. Sure, you might make a spectacle of yourself, but think of the exposure you’re giving the book! Totally worth it.

If you are ready for something different, and/or if you are in the mood to give a friend a fabulous gift, grab a copy of The Moth. I promise that you will be glad you did.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2014.