This book tells the true story of the early life of Olaudah Equiano and is based on his autobiography. Born in Essaka, Africa in 1745, Olaudah lived a happy, uneventful life with his family until he was captured and sold as a slave as a child.
Through this story, written in the first person, young readers will learn something of the reality of losing freedom – when you do not even own your name and can be bought and sold as if you are an object rather than a human being. Although Oladauh did not experience the worst aspects of slavery himself, he was in constant danger, witnessed a woman wearing an iron muzzle and refers to flogging, branding and the fate of slaves who try to escape.
Olaudah was introduced to the wider world when bought by a naval officer on the high seas, travelling to Barbados, America, England, Guernsey and even Nova Scotia. Through these experiences he learnt about ships, sailing and how to cut hair and also experiences war and shipwreck. There are lighter touches such as Olu’s confusion when he sees a porpoise at sea or experiences snow for the first time in England. Through friendships with a master’s children and one of his shipmates he learns to speak English, and later to read and write, (despite his master’s resistance) eventually writing his own story. Olaudah uses his determination and initiative to buy his freedom by trading goods on voyages.
The afterword refers to rest of his life, his complex relationship with slavery, contribution to its abolition and achievement in writing an autobiography.
Johnson is highly skilled in bringing historical figures to life for young readers. This volume, with Barrington Stoke’s dyslexia-friendly features, is written in an accessible and engaging format with clear facts and carefully selected detail and description.