Cover image for North by night : a story of the Underground Railroad
North by night : a story of the Underground Railroad
Ayres, Katherine.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
176 pages ; 22 cm
Presents the journal of a sixteen-year-old girl whose family operates a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Reading Level:
750 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.8 6.0 28549.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 4.8 8 Quiz: 14060 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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It's 1851 and Lucy Spencer's family is keeping a secret. Their Ohio home is a station on the Underground Railroad, the network of people and places that helps fugitive slaves escape to Canada. Lucy believes in what she and her family do to help the fugitives, even if it means putting herself in danger. Lucy doesn't hesitate when she is asked to stay with the Widow Aurelia Mercer and help her with a family of runaway slaves hiding in her attic. One of the fugitives, Cass, is pregnant. Between Cass and the unconventional Miss Aurelia, Lucy is learning so much--about growing up, love, and standing on her own. But what will Lucy do when asked to make the ultimate sacrifice?

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-10. The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act required that runaway slaves be returned to their owners even if captured in a nonslave state. The Underground Railroad, to ensure slaves' freedom, had to get them into Canada. Ayres' romantic story of 16-year-old Lucinda and her family in 1851 Ohio is told through Lucinda's diary and letters from her family and friends. Under the cover of caring for a sickly neighbor, Lucinda assists in hiding a group of slaves. Lucinda is caught between affection for an old friend and that of an older Quaker boy, who also works the Railroad; she misses her parents and siblings intensely even as she involves herself in the planning and mapping out of the slaves' journeys north. She displays ingenuity and courage when she must save the freeborn child of a runaway who dies in childbirth. Although occasionally simplistic and sentimental, it is an absorbing tale. Ayres slips in a lot of evocative detail about the hard work of running a farm and a household before the Civil War, as well as some rather charming musing about kissing and its myriad effects on the psyche. (Reviewed October 1, 1998)0385325649GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Publisher's Weekly Review

Told through journal entries and letters, this historical novel underscores the cruel consequences of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act and the dangerous choices forced on Americans both black and white in the tense years leading to the Civil War. At 16, Lucinda Spenser has already helped slaves escape, as her family's Ohio farm forms part of the Underground Railroad route to Canada. On the eve of a party at the home of Lucinda's beau, Jonathan Clark, the Quaker Jeremiah Strong asks Lucinda to play a key role in a daring plot to protect 10 escapees, mostly children but also one pregnant woman. The plan involves a prolonged stay at the home of the unconventional Widow (Aurelia) Mercer, who shares her feminist notions with Lucinda. While Lucinda spends some time debating which of her two suitors, Jonathan or Jeremiah, she prefers, the friendships she forges with Miss Aurelia and the fugitive slaves transform the plot from predictable romance to a tale of bravery and sacrifice: Lucinda's passions shift from flirtation to an even deeper commitment to free slaves. Ayres's (Family Tree) plotting is not always plausible (for example, the ruse by which Lucinda goes to stay at Miss Aurelia's‘a faked case of measles‘works improbably long at keeping outsiders at bay). While there is more action here than in the similarly themed Bright Freedom's Song (reviewed below), it also seems more of a '90s novel, in which the heroine's dramatic self-actualization is at least as important as the period setting. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-9-The talents of narrator Christina Moore enhance Katherine Ayers' heartfelt, suspenseful historical novel about a girl's involvement with the Underground Railroad (Delacorte, 1998). Set in 1851 Ohio, the story finds 16-year-old Lucy Spencer thinking about dating, parties, and friends. However, she decides to devote herself to helping runaway slaves after Congress passes the Fugitive Slave Act, and a Southern stranger arrives in town offering a reward for any slaves returned to him. Lucy moves in with the lively widow, Aurelia Mercer, and they help hide a family of fugitive slaves (one of them pregnant) in the attic. Moore reads the story with tenderness and clarity; her performance is beautifully understated. Her flexible voice brings to life a variety of characters, and her portrayal of Lucy's pesky brother is especially convincing. In Moore's hands, the tough yet lovable Aurelia makes an indelible impression. Told through Lucy's diary entries and letters, listeners seeking an historical drama laced with poignancy, some humor, and suspense will be captivated. Lucy is a decent, moral character whom many kids will enjoy getting to know, and Christina Moore helps bring Lucy and her adventures to life.-Brian E. Wilson, Evanston Public Library, IL(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.