Cover image for Forty acres and maybe a mule
Forty acres and maybe a mule
Robinet, Harriette.
Personal Author:
[Large print edition].
Publication Information:
Thorndike, Me. : Thorndike Press, 2000.

Physical Description:
184 pages ; 23 cm
Born with a withered leg and hand, Pascal, who is about twelve years old, joins other former slaves in a search for a farm and the freedom which it promises.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.3 5.0 27750.
Format :


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X Juvenile Fiction Childrens Area-Reading List

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Like other ex-slaves, Pascal and his older brother Gideon have been promised forty acres and maybe a mule. With the friends they have made, they claim a place of their own. Green Gloryland is the most wonderful place on earth, their own family farm with a healthy cotton crop and plenty to eat. But the notorious night riders have plans to take it away, threatening the beautiful freedom that the two boys are enjoying for the first time in their young lives. Coming alive in plain, vibrant language is this story of the Reconstruction, after the Civil War.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-7. Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Pascal's older brother Gideon returns to the plantation where the slaves still work, not realizing they have been freed. Pascal, Gideon, and another child, Nelly, set out to claim the 40 acres Gideon hears have been promised to freed slaves. Throughout the story the tension between the joy of freedom and the dangers of the enraged white southerners tugs at the characters as they farm their new land, attend school, and hear terrible stories. Robinet skillfully balances her in-depth historical knowledge with the feelings of her characters, creating a story that moves along rapidly and comes to a bittersweet conclusion. A fine historical novel that explores the immediate postwar period for African Americans and their white friends and neighbors. --Susan Dove Lempke

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this novel set in April through September of 1865, Robinet's (The Twins, the Pirates, and the Battle of New Orleans) resilient characters lend immediacy to the early events of Reconstruction. Orphaned 12-year-old Pascal is a slave at the Big House on a South Carolina plantation when his runaway brother Gideon, a Union soldier, returns, proclaiming that Lincoln has freed the slaves and General Sherman has promised 40 acres and maybe a mule for both blacks and whites. Pascal, his friend Nelly and Gideon set off in search of a Freedmen's Bureau (where land is deeded) and finally find one in Georgia. Along the way they encounter other former slaves, two of whom they "adopt" as family; poor white farmers (among them the Bibbs family who become neighbors, and with whom they begin a moving friendship); night riders and Republican operatives eager to recruit new voters. Robinet compellingly demonstrates how the courage and determination of Pascal and Gideon's small band transform their 40 acres into a model farm. But there's no sugarcoating here: just as their perfect cotton crop matures, President Johnson reverses his land acts to declare that only white families can own the 40-acre plots of free land. Even this devastating development doesn't attenuate Pascal's sense of accomplishment ("Maybe nobody gave freedom, and nobody could take it away like they could take away a family farm. Maybe freedom was something you claimed yourself"). A stirring story of self-determination. Ages 8-12. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-Once again, Robinet has humanized a little-known piece of American history. In the spring of 1865, the Freedmen's Bureau approved a plan to give 40 acres of abandoned land to former slave families. Forty thousand freed people took advantage of that offer, only to lose their farms when it was withdrawn in September. The author focuses on Pascal, 12, a slave on a plantation in South Carolina. His older brother Gideon, who ran away during the war, returns to collect him and they head for Georgia, determined to become landowners. Teaming up with Pascal's friend Nelly and the elderly Mr. Freedman and his granddaughter, they form a family, claim land, and begin to farm. The Bibbs, white neighbors from Tennessee, are helpful in protecting them from the night riders who are determined to destroy black-owned farms. Despite their hard work, Pascal and the others are evicted at the end of the summer. Luckily, Gideon had found a treasure buried under a tree, and they set out to buy land on the Georgia Sea Islands. Pascal is a likable boy whose withered hand and leg limit his body but not his mind and whose dreadful jokes entertain everyone. The dialect may deter some readers at first, but sympathy for the characters will keep children going until they reach the satisfying ending.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.