Illustrated by Duane Smith. Grades 3-5.
This picture book biography of Robert Smalls, a slave from South Carolina who later became a U. S. Congressman, focuses on his life as a young slave working as a ship's wheelman. Using his knowledge of navigation and the trust of the ship's officers, Smalls executed a plot to commandeer a Confederate ship secretly loaded with the black crew's families and cannons to the North. This factual account reads like a suspense story as Smalls risks the lives of all on board to gain their freedom. The impressionistic art enhances the story and will keep young readers involved. An afterword gives details of Smalls' life through his distinguished career in Congress. A bibliography is also included.