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
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



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

A 16-year-old girl with two suitors undertakes a daring plan to help slaves along the Underground Railroad. According to PW, "The heroine's dramatic self-actualization is at least as important as the period setting." Ages 10-up. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-9-In January, 1851, Lucinda Spencer, age 16, writes her second entry of the new year from the free state of Ohio. In answer to God's call and as a matter of personal conscience, her father has made the family farm a station on the Underground Railroad. Lucinda has grown up with this charge but also believes it to be her own. She leaves her home to help a neighbor protect nine fugitives (mostly children) on the woman's farm and, in the end, shepherds a newborn to freedom in Canada after the mother dies, thus never seeing her own family again. Through Lucinda's diary, spanning approximately three months, Ayres explains and condemns the Fugitive Slave Act, argues politics, touches on Southern laws preventing the teaching of reading to slaves, and builds a plot that culminates in freedom for the runaways and the coming of age of a young woman. There are steady references to budding romance (Lucinda has two wooers) and to God's plan and God's peoples. The author's obvious research is demonstrated and so, at times, is her descriptive voice. She handles most of the story gracefully; but there is a lot going on-bits of antislavery tracts, Quaker philosophy, rights of women/peoples. It will take a careful and skillful reader to get it all. There has been a growing body of literature that addresses slavery for this audience. Margaret Goff Clark's Freedom Crossing (Scholastic, 1991) is still one of the best for its suspense, ideals, and characterizations. Also recommend Gary Paulsen's Nightjohn (Delacorte, 1993) and, of course, Paula Fox's classic The Slave Dancer (Bradbury, 1973).-Harriett Fargnoli, Great Neck Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.