Grace, a nine-year-old slave in pre-Civil War America, lives with her mother and stepfather, who work in the tobacco fields, and the elderly Sara, who cares for her and her two little brothers. When Grace is sent to work at the Big House, her mother tells her to keep her eyes down, and Sara warns her against speaking out. Grace struggles with the hatred and cruelty of her master and mistress and with keeping quiet. When she overhears the master say he is going to sell her mother and little brothers, Grace leaves the Big House and encourages her family to flee. With little time and few resources, they head for the dangerous swamp beyond the lake where they believe a settlement of escaped slaves hides.
Written in free-verse poetry, Unbound is a beautiful story. Burg’s descriptive language and use of dialect are cleverly crafted to bring to life the setting while staying within the reading-level needs of the young reader. Grace is an enjoyable protagonist, full of curiosity, love, fear and bravery. The plot is exciting: the Big House is a scary, dangerous place for Grace, and so is the swamp full of gators and snakes and wildcats. Although fictional, the story is based on the experiences of former slaves who lived in the Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia/North Carolina. An important story, well told. For ages 9-12.