I really like Lee and Low’s “The Story of…” series: for me, it’s easily a companion series to the more well-known “Who Was…?” series from Penguin Random House, and the subjects of the “Story of” books shine spotlights on people of color that we may not hear about as often. The biography of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls, by Janet Halfmann (The Midnight Teacher) and illustrated by Duane Smith (Seven Miles to Freedom), is a concise, thorough biography of Robert Smalls, an enslaved steamboat wheelman who saved his family and crew when he used the captain’s hat and cover of darkness to commandeer a Confederate ship and steer it directly to the Union – and freedom. Filled with illustrations and photos, readers get a great picture of Robert Smalls and his nighttime ride through Confederate waters, and his life afterward, including his further actions in the Civil War, where he took part in 17 battles, and his post-War life, when he founded the Republican Party i South Carolina and helped write the new democratic state constitution and a proposal on education, his activity in the state militia, where he attained the rank of major general, and his political life, winning seats in both the South Carolina house and senate. The book includes a timeline of of Smalls’s life and a glossary of terms, plus references and a list of further reading.
Treat yourself to this book, and this series, and treat yourself to more books about Robert Smalls, including Janet Halfmann and Duane Smith’s picture book, Seven Miles to Freedom, also published by Lee & Low, and Be Free or Die, by Cate Linberry, is available for teens and adults. Smithsonian Magazine has an excellent article on Smalls.