HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Trouble Don’t Last
Author: Shelley Pearsall
Cover Illustrator: Rick Whipple
Publisher: Yearling, republished in 2003
ISBN-13: 978-1439521823 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 1439521824 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0440418115 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0440418119 Paperback
Related website: http://www.randomhouse.com/kids (publisher)
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Pearsall, Shelley. Trouble Don’t Last (published in 2002 by Alfred A. Knopf; republished in 2003 by Dell Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House Inc., New York City, NY). It is September of 1859, and eleven year old Samuel, who was born as Master Hackler’s slave, works on the Hackler farm at Blue Ash near Washington, KY. His momma, Hannah, was sold before he was even old enough to remember her, and he was raised by two old slaves named Harrison, who is about seventy, and Lilly. Then one dark night cranky old Harrison pulls Samuel from his bed, and together they run, heading for Chatham, Canada. The two experience many adventures and a lot of danger along the way as they manage to cross the Ohio River to Ripley, OH, stop to hide at Negro Hollow near Hillsboro, OH (which happens to be my hometown), and make their way north on a train. Te elude detection, at one point young Samuel must dress as a girl.
Can they keep from being recaptured? Why did Harrison choose this particular time to escape? Will Samuel ever learn anything about his mother? And when they are stopped by slave patrollers in Sandusky, OH, just a boat ride across the lake from freedom, what will they do? Trouble Don’t Last is both a heartbreaking and a hopeful novel that Publishers Weekly says “realistically blends kindness and cruelty.” Author Shelley Pearsall gives the reader a suspenseful, emotionally charged story of freedom and family. The terms “Lordy” and “Lord Almighty” are frequently used as interjections, and the “h” word is found occasionally though not as a term of cursing. Several times it is said that someone cursed or swore, but no actual curse or swear words are uttered. A couple of people are said to smoke pipes, and one man took a number of drinks of whiskey.
All that aside, the book, which won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, tells a wonderful tale that would make a great literary complement to a study of the Underground Railroad. It includes a historical note and map to enhance the educational value. The author’s note says that one character is based on a real-life black Underground Railroad guide named John P. Parker who ferried runaway slaves across the Ohio River, and that most of the events and names used are real but come from many different sources and have been adapted to fit into this fictional plot. The School Library Journal calls it “a compelling story that will expand young readers’ understanding of the Underground Railroad and the individual acts of courage it embraced.”