(B) Ages 4-8, (C) Ages 8-10, Book Reviews, Discussion Starters, Historical Fiction, Multicultural, Nonfiction, Picture Books
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Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson

Inspired by true events, this is the story of a St. Louis reverend who moved his school off shore to neutral waters when the law made it illegal to teach African Americans.

RR_Steamboat School

Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Ron Husband. Jump at the Sun, 2016. 40 pages.

Reading Level: Ages 8-10

Recommended For: Ages 6 and up

The New Law: 1847

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Missouri, as follows:

No person shall keep any school for the instruction of negroes or mulattoes, reading or writing, in this State.

Reverend John had already been teaching a small group of African American youngsters in the basement by candlelight. Arriving in small groups so as not to draw attention to their school, the students made do with minimal supplies in their one room. Until the new law made it illegal even to meet in the basement. Reverend John spied a loophole in the law, purchased a steamboat, and moved his school to the waters outside the Missouri border. Steamboat School was now in session!

Regardless of your ethnic/racial background, stories like this are a terrific reminder of the value of school and education! Even if it means rowing out to your school on a steamboat! But they are also reminders of just how far the persecution went for African Americans at times in our history. While this picture book is a fictionalized account, the story is based on true events. A helpful author’s note sheds more light on the real Reverend John Berry Meachum, himself a former slave who bought his own freedom. A short bibliography for young readers is also included. Christians have historically valued education–teaching others to read so that they might read the Word of God for themselves. This is a small piece of that history.

Cautions: none

Overall Rating: 4.25

  • Worldview Rating: 4.25
  • Artistic Rating: 4.25

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