Copper Sun by Sharon Draper
Many readers recognize Sharon Draper from her urban novels in the Hazelwood High Trilogy, which seems to be practically mandatory reading in our local middle schools. But Draper also writes children’s books, contemporary YA fiction and YA historical fiction. This title is a sterling example from the last category and has been one of the Berkeley High favorites when students read from the Subsaharan Africa Reading List. It describes the physical and emotional journey of fifteen-year-old Amari, from her African village to the Carolinas, where she is sold into slavery as a birthday present for a plantation owner’s son. Draper’s description of the Middle Passage is detailed and historically accurate. It may drag for readers who have already researched this infamous chapter in world history, but in addition to details about the tortuous imprisonment and journey of the African hostages, readers begin to know the narrator Amari, including her values and her previous life. The plot picks up quickly when the ship lands in the New World and Amari is purchased at a slave auction and taken along with an indentured servant to a plantation.
This book does a wonderful job teaching readers about slavery from a first hand perspective. Draper’s writing is straight-forward and engaging as always. I highly recommend this book to readers grades seven – twelve.