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Chains: Seeds of America by Laurie Halse Anderson

Chains: Seeds of America
y Laurie Halse Anderson

Publishing Information: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: New York, 2008
ISBN: 9781416905651 / 978141605868 (PB) / 9781423367307 (Audio)
: 316 p.
Ages: 10 & Up

After being sold to a cruel couple in New York City, a slave named Isabel spies for the rebels during the Revolutionary War.

If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl? As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight...for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

Book Talk:
Imagine, you’re a young slave in the household of an ambitious and unscrupulous couple. They are loyalists who have grown rich under the rule of the British government. They have treated you badly and have sold your little sister to a new owner far away. While running errands for them, you have been befriended by a slave boy who works for the rebels who are fighting for independence from Britain. The rebels want you to spy on your owners. They promise freedom. So, you linger at doorways and listen while loyalists eat their dinner and plot the assassination of General Washington. If you bring the rebel Colonel Regan the evidence he wants, will you win your freedom and find your sister?

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

African Americans
American Revolution, 1775-1783
New York City

Awards & Reviews:
American Library Assocation Notable Children's Books, Older Readers, 2009
Arizona Grand Canyon Reader Award Tween Book Nominee, 2011
Arkansas Teen Book Award (grades 7-9) Nominee, 2010
Booklist Editors' Books for Youth Choice, Older Readers, 2008
Maine Student Book Award Reading List, 2009-2010
Missouri Truman Book Award Nominee, 2010-2011
Nebraska Golden Sower Award Young Adult Nominee, 2010-2011
New Mexico Battle of the Books Middle School Award Nominee, 2009-2010
Parents' Choice Awards, Historical Fiction, 2008
Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award Nominee, Grades 6-8, 2009-2010
Scott O'Dell Historical FIction Award, 2009
South Carolina Junior Book Award Nominee, 2010-2011
Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award Nominee, Grades 7-12, 2010-2011
Texas Tayshas High School Reading List, 2010
Wisconsin Battle of the Books, Senior Division, 2009-2010
Young Adult Library Services Association Best Books for Young Adults, 2009

Book Links, October 1, 2009
, November 1, 2008 (Starred Review)
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November 1, 2008
Horn Book, November 1, 2008
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2008 (Starred Review)
Library Media Connection, January 1, 2009
New York Times Book Review, December 21, 2008
Publishers Weekly
, September 1, 2009 (Starred Review)
School Library Journal, October 1, 2008
VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, October 1, 2008 (Starred Review)

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. In the Appendix, Anderson uses a question and answer format to extend readers’ understanding of the history that underlies her writing. This can be a very good start to further research and discussion.

  2. There are three very interesting real people in the book – Mayor David Matthews, Thomas Hickey and Dr. Abraham van Buskirk. Writers can tell the fascinating stories of real  people, like Hickey who was indeed hung for plotting to kill General Washington. Why did Anderson need to create Isabel and other fictional characters?

  3. The story begins with the death of Miss Mary Finch in Tew, Rhode Island. Was there a place called Tew in colonial Rhode Island?

  4. Slavery was a fact of life in colonial Rhode Island. When and how did slavery end in Rhode Island?

  5. Anderson uses the word “seeds” in the title and quotes Thomas Paine on the first page of chapter I. What do the word and the quote mean?

  6. In chapter XVII, Elihu Lockton ends an argument with his wife by hitting her. What does this scene tell us about Elihu and Anne Lockton?

  7. Why does Anne Lockton insist upon changing Isabel Finch’s name to Sal Lockton?

  8. Isabel provided valuable information to Colonel Regan. When she is told her sister has been sold, she runs to Colonel Regan for help. Why doesn’t he help? Can he help her, or are his hands tied as he says?

  9. Why did Anderson create the character Lady Seymour, Mr. Lockton’s aunt? She cannot free Isabel or return Ruth to her. What role does Lady Seymour play in the book?

  10. The book is divided into two parts. Part I ends with Isabel branded and weak. Part II begins with her returning to work in the Lockton home, but something has changed in Isabel. What has changed?

  11. The title of the book is Chains. Isabel is not kept in chains. Chains are a symbol of slavery but physical chains have not kept Isabel from escaping. In Part I, many things kept Isabel from escaping. How many reasons can you frecall?

  12. In Part II, what chains remain? What keeps her from freedom?

  13. Who frees Isabel?

Related Websites:
Author's Website -
“The American Revolution and Slavery.” The Origins and Nature of New World Slavery. Digital Histlory.
Selig, Robert A. “The Revolution’s Black Soldiers.” Scholar’s Showcase. American           Revolution.Org -
“Stories from the Revolution: African Americans in The Revolutionary Period.” The          American Revolution: Lighting Freedom’s Flame -

American Revolution
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson, 2006
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume Two: The Kingdom on the Waves
by M.T. Anderson, 2008
Attack of the Turtle by Drew Carlson, 2007
Give Me Liberty by Laura Elliott, 2006
Hope's Crossing
by Joan E. Goodman, 1998
Johnny Tremain
by Esther Forbes, 1943
The Journal of William Thomas Emerson, a Revolutionary War Patriot
by Barry Denenberg, 1998
Just Jane: A Daughter of England Caught in the Struggle of the American Revolution
by William Lavender, 2002
My Brother Same is Dead
by James Lincoln & Christopher Collier, 1974
Or Give Me Death: A Novel of Patrick Henry's Family by Ann Rinaldi, 2004
Sarah Bishop by Scott O'Dell, 1980
Soldier's Secret: The Story of Deborah Sampson
by Sheila Solomon Klass, 2009
Spy! by Anna Myers, 2008

Slavery and Indenture in Colonial America
The Bells of Freedom by Dorothy Gilman, 1995
by Slly Gunning, 2008
Colonists for Sale: The Story of Indentured Servants in America
by Clifford Lindsey Alderman, 1975
The Color of Fire
by Ann Rinaldi, 2005
Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper, 2006
Encounter at Easton by Avi, 1980
The Fifth of March: A Story of the Boston Massacre
by Ann Rinaldi, 1999
Hard Labor: The First African Americans, 1619 by Patrica C & Frederick L. McKissack, Jr.
My Name is Phillis Wheatley: A Story of Slavery and Freedom
by Afua Cooper, 2009
A Pickpocket's Tale
by Karen Schwabach, 2006
A Stolen Life
by Jane Louise Curry, 1999
Strange New Land: Africans in Colonial America, 1524-1775
by Peter H. Wood, 2003
Taking LIberty: The Story of Oney Judge, George Washington's Runaway Slave
by Ann Rinaldi, 2002
Tales of Indentured Servantsby Jospeh & Edith Raskin, 1978
Wheel of the Moon
by Sandra Forrester, 2000

Other Books by the Author:
Forge, 2010 (sequel to Chains)
Wintergirls, 2009 (2011 RITBA Nominee)
Time to Fly, 2009
Fear of Falling, 2009
The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School, 2009
Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution, 2008
Twisted, 2007
Prom, 2005
The Big Cheese of Third Street, 2002
, 2002 (2004 RITBA Nominee)
End of the Race, 2002
Masks, 2002
Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving, 2002
Fear of Falling, 2001
Manatee Blues
, 2001
Saudi Arabia
, 2001
Say Good-bye, 2001
Storm Rescue, 2001
Teacher's Pet
, 2001
, 2001
Fever, 1793, 2000
Fight for Life, 2000
Homeless, 2000
The Trickster, 2000
Speak, 1999 (2001 RITBA Nominee)
Turkey Pox, 1996
Ndito Runs, 1995

About the Author:
Ann Burg was born in New York and spent her happy early childhood years in Brooklyn, where she wrote poetry and read lots of books. When she was eight years old, Ann and her family moved to New Jersey where she continued to read, write and dream.

An English teacher for more than 10 years, Ann pursued her interest in writing as a hobby and had several articles published in newspapers throughout New York and New Jersey. With the support of her husband and their cherished daughter and son, Ann decided to leave teaching and pursue her writing career full time. She lives with her family in Albany, New York.    From Sleeping Bear Press

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair