Children’s book of the week: Journey Back To Freedom: The Olaudah Equiano Story

The cover of Journey Back To Freedom: The Olaudah Equiano Story by Catherine Johnson
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Here’s the spot where we recommend a children’s book every week – this time it’s Journey Back To Freedom: The Olaudah Equiano Story by Catherine Johnson. 

Barrington Stoke is quite possibly one of the most inclusive publishers in the market. Determined to break down the barriers to reading and ensure that every child can be a reader, their books are designed for maximum readability – with spacing, font choice and off-white pages to present well-crafted storylines that match the age of the reader, not their reading level.

This, an incredible story of survival and freedom based on the real life of adventurer, activist and author Olaudah Equiano, has a reading age of eight years old and an interest age of eight to twelve. Non-fiction in concept, with Johnson having meticulously researched the book and founding much of it on Equiano’s own memoir that was published in 1789 (as outlined in the book’s excellent afterword) it’s recounted here as a powerful historical novel. And, at only 110 pages, it’s a great read for those who find longer books daunting.

Olaudah Equiano was only 11 years old when he snatched away from his family and home in Essaka, Africa. He spent the following ten years as a slave at sea: working on various boats, passed on from one master to the next, witnessing great cruelty and escaping extreme peril. It’s a story of hope, determination and, ultimately, freedom. Equiano wrote his book to shine a light on the inhumanity of the slave trade, and it is, 250 years later, still in print.

Johnson’s retelling of his life is immensely compelling. The narrative is fast-paced and immediate – replicating the constant unpredictability of Equiano’s experience. She doesn’t shy away from the brutality he experienced, but her words are carefully chosen for young readers to be able to be introduced to the topic and the immensely emotive concepts we should not shy away from or try to forget as they are too difficult.

The result is a book that serves as something of a gateway for children, easing them into understanding and accessing an important part of history which should never just be reserved for one month of the year.

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