Sarah's Stars

James Riordan. Rebel Cargo
Frances Lincoln $7.95 ISBN 978-1-84507-525-5 297 pg.
Reviewed by Melissa, Age 15

Driven by love of filthy gold,
Men chained and bore us to sea,
Crammed us into the slave ship’s hold
Where many hundreds lie like me.

Naked on a platform lying,
Now we cross the tossing wave,
Shrieking, moaning, fainting, crying,
How many warriors dying brave?

Putrid food they bring us nigh;
Sick and sad we cannot eat.
‘The whip must cure!’ they cry,
As down our throats they force the meat.

Driven like cattle to a fair,
See how they sell us, young and old.
Child from mother too they tear,
All for love of filthy gold!’

Mungo Mullins is a ginger-haired boy, orphaned as a young boy. He had learned early on that his life was going to be hard. But he was tough as teak and was able to survive in his world, cleaning a horse pen and serving at the Inn. It was fairly normal until he stumbled upon a small black boy…with a piece of paper. What did it all mean? No sooner had he seen the strange sketching, he was being hunted by two killers. Why? He was forced to flee the town he had always known and work for a white man who owned a cotton field. A particularly fiery slave girl named Abena caught his eye…little did either of them know that they would change each other’s lives.

I could not put this book down! Each part held some new conspiracy or prejudice. This book is full of action, leaving you wondering what is going to happen next. The story is gripping and horrifying at the same time. Slavery may have happened a long time ago, but it still happened. James Riordan brings that reality to life with this novel. I found myself wanting to yell right at the pages in certain parts. I felt as if I was in the story and I wanted to do something to help or to change people’s minds. It was a very powerful book filled with the hardships that the Negroes faced.

The way many of the white people were portrayed was cruel and cold hearted, handing out beatings and harsh words as if it was a normal thing to do. It frightened me at how sadistic some of the white men were. Their ferocity and seriousness towards the imprisonment of ‘beasts’ from across seas was disturbingly well written. I was caught off guard by the insensitive acts and blood shed for the smallest of reasons. Sometimes there was not even a reason.

I would recommend this book for people thirteen years old and up. It would be a good novel to read in Socials or English class only because it hands out such a strong message. It would show students just how bad it was with vivid images and adrenaline pumping escapes. It has some goriness and mild language.

I give Rebel Cargo five striking stars.

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