Cover image for Seaward born
Seaward born
Wait, Lea.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2003.
Physical Description:
156 pages ; 22 cm
In 1805, a thirteen-year-old slave and his friend make a dangerous escape fom Charleston, S.C. and stowaway to head north toward freedom.
Reading Level:
730 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.5 5.0 66729.
Electronic Access:
Publisher description
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Thirteen-year-old Michael knows he is lucky. Few slaves in 1805 Charleston are where they want to be. But Michael works on the docks and ships in Charleston Harbor, close to the seas he longs to sail.
Life seems good. But then his protective mistress dies and Michael's world changes. His friend Jim encourages him to "steal himself"; to run. Michael is torn.
Mama always taught him, "to get along, you go along." But Papa wanted him to be free. "You see a possibility, you take it....A fish you pull in as a free man tastes ten times sweeter than a fish you catch for a master." Now Mama and Papa are both dead, and Michael must decide alone.
Does he dare risk everything for a chance at freedom in some unknown place? If he and Jim are caught, he will have lost everything. But if he stays -- is staying safe worth staying a slave?
How Michael makes his decision to flee seaward to freedom is the heart of this moving and dramatic story set in an America where slavery is a way of life in the South, and the journey to freedom one of immense courage and mortal danger.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-7. An orphan slave in Charleston in 1805, 13-year-old Michael longs to work in the harbor as his father did. He gets his wish when his mistress sends him to work on a lighter, a sailboat whose crew unloads cargo from larger ships. Upon his owner's death, Michael and an older slave stow away on a northbound ship in search of freedom. Michael changes his name to Noah Brown to elude slave hunters, yet even in Boston and in the far-off District of Maine, he cannot escape the fear of them. Wait concludes with several pages of historical notes and a bibliography of primary and secondary source material. Well-chosen lines of verse, typically from spirituals and sea chanteys, appear at chapter headings. Though the villains do not seem as real as the many characters who wish Michael/Noah well, Wait creates a sympathetic young hero and sets him on an unusual path northward. Many young readers will enjoy following his journey. --Carolyn Phelan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Michael, the 13-year-old captive who first appeared in Stopping to Home, returns for Seaward Born by Lea Wait. When Michael's master dies, he makes the decision to stow away on a northern-bound vessel and escape from South Carolina. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-7-In 1805 Charleston, Michael, 13, escapes from slavery. After stowing away on a ship bound for Boston, he runs afoul of a sailor who would like to turn him in for reward money. He moves on to Maine, but even there the risk of discovery is high, so he finally heads for true freedom in Canada. Resourceful and self-assured, Michael relies on the help of fair-minded men and on the advice he recalls from his deceased parents. His skills as a cook and as a seaman also serve him well on more than one occasion. The smoothly told story presents several scenarios faced by African Americans in the early 1800s, both through the teen's experiences and those of people he talks to. The decision to leave Charleston is not an easy one, as he weighs safety and security against his wish to "make a life." His struggles in New England show the complications of living as an escaped slave in the North. Michael is a thoughtful and likable character, though he never emerges as a fully compelling individual. Supporting characters have enough depth to be interesting, but are also clearly cast as friend or foe, with no deviation, from the start. The novel has some predictable moments, such as Michael's narrow escape in a Boston alley, but the general fast pace and clear writing make it an accessible story full of thought-provoking situations and well-drawn historical settings.-Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter 1 Dum spiro, spero ("While I breathe, I hope"). -- state motto of South Carolina Why did the mistress want to see him? Never in all the thirteen years Michael had lived in the slave quarters of the big house on Tradd Street had Mrs. Lautrec asked for him. Had she sold him? Was she sending him to her son's plantation, Sotherfield, to sweat in the rice fields? The questions echoed through Michael's head. He stopped swabbing the floor and looked out from the highest arcade of Saint Michael's Church, far above the red rooftops of Charleston. Mrs. Lautrec sent him to the church every morning to help Mr. Fitzhugh, the sexton. Swabbing the steeple balconies was his favorite task. Usually the sight of the vessels below him in the harbor was enough to let him forget the past months. Early-spring breezes caught strands of his long, dark hair, worn, as a seaman's would be, tied with an eel-skin thong at the back of his neck. Michael moved to the railing. He could see all of Charleston, not just from the Cooper River to the Ashley River, but way out to the islands, where Papa had taught him fishing and the ways of the waters, and to the sea beyond. Michael blinked away tears. Papa had drowned in last September's terrible hurricane. The swelling cargo of rice filling the ship Concord had burst the vessel's seams open and taken everyone aboard down with it. That same day Mama had been crushed when high gales knocked the chimney of Mrs. Lautrec's house through the roof. In one day that storm had taken both his parents. He reached into his pocket and took out the small, smooth wooden fishing boat Papa had carved for him when he was small. "Every boy, no matter he be a slave, should have a toy," Papa had said. And what Michael had wanted more than anything else, even then, was a boat. He had played with that boat constantly until he was old enough to know toys were only for little children, and had hidden it under his straw-filled pallet. After Mama's and Papa's deaths he thought of it again. It comforted him to feel the smooth wood under his fingers; it made Papa and Mama and the days when he had been a child seem closer. It reminded him that he had been loved. Michael looked out again at the harbor. How could anyone live without being close to the sea? Masted vessels filled the harbor, their sails like the great wings of angels, carrying people safely from one shore to another. Tall ships under sail had the power to take you to other worlds. Most days the sight of them brought him hope. Today it reminded him of what else he could lose. "Boy! Come down here this minute! There are other chores to be done!" It was Mr. Fitzhugh. Michael shoved the boat back in his pocket and picked up the bucket of dirty water and the mop. Mama would have been proud of him, keeping his namesake clean for the Lord. He took one last look seaward and then scrambled down the steep stairs, slipping on the damp steps and spilling some of the dirty water from the pail as he came. What did the mistress want with him? Sirrah, the cook who had replaced Mama, had said Mrs. Lautrec wanted to speak with him after dinner. The waiting would make for a long afternoon. Copyright © 2003 by Eleanor Wait Excerpted from Seaward Born by Lea Wait All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.