GiGi Amateau

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Come August, Come Freedom: The Bellows, The Gallows, and The Black General Gabriel

In a time of post-Revolutionary fervor in Richmond, Virginia, an imposing twenty-four-year-old man named Gabriel, known for his courage and intellect, plotted a rebellion involving thousands of African-American freedom seekers armed with refashioned pitchforks and other implements of Gabriel’s blacksmith trade. The revolt would be thwarted by a confluence of fierce weather and human betrayal, but Gabriel retained his dignity to the end. History knows little of Gabriel’s early life. But here, author Gigi Amateau imagines a childhood shaped by a mother’s devotion, a father’s passion for liberation, and a friendship with a white master’s son who later proved cowardly and cruel. She gives vibrant life to Gabriel’s love for his wife-to-be, Nanny. Interwoven with original documents, this poignant, illuminating novel gives a personal face to a remarkable moment in history.

Read a sample chapter

About the book: by Gigi Amateau | Middle-grade historical fiction, Ages 12 and Up, Grades 7 and Up | Candlewick Press, hardcover September 2012 | ISBN: 0763647926 / 9780763647926| $16.99

Honors  |  Reviews  |  Resources  |  Press/Posts

Come August, Come Freedom Honors

  • 2013 Jefferson Cup Honor Book
  • 2013 Library of Virginia People’s Choice Fiction Award
  • Fall 2012, Southern Independent Book Sellers Alliance Okra Pick
  • 2012 CYBILS Award nominee, young adult fiction
  • Bank Street College Children’s Book Committee, 2013 Best Children's Books of the Year

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Come August, Come Freedom Reviews

Clifford Garstang: Sept. 16, 2013

... also a love story. For me, primarily, it was a history lesson. Read the full review at Clifford Garstang

Books in Bellevue: July 22, 2013

This is the story of the perseverance of hope in the face of adversity. This story makes us believe that if we truly want something, we need to work at it. Don't give up, Gabriel warns us. And it makes me want to pick up his hand and run with him. Read the full review at Books in Bellevue.

The ALAN Review: Summer 2013

A slave named Gabriel is unable to defend the love of his life and earn the money to buy her freedom, so he makes a decision. Freedom for just his own family is not enough. Using the forge to turn pitchforks into swords and his eloquence to turn dreams into rallying cries, Gabriel plots a rebellion involving thousands of slaves, free blacks, poor whites, and Native Americans.

Amateau’s storytelling is outstanding in this book as she tells the story of a slave showing how horrible slavery was. Everything that Gabriel goes through becomes a driving force behind his starting a Revolution to bring liberty to those who have been wronged in their lives. This story shows Gabriel putting everything on the line to achieve freedom for everyone he cares about. After reading this book, I think Gabriel is a true hero.– Alex Klement Baton Rouge, LA

The New Madrid Journal: Summer 2013

Gabriel is portrayed as a man who, like the founding fathers, believes in freedom and is willing to die for it. For the full review go to New Madrid Journal.

Book Addiction: March 18, 2013

I really appreciated Come August, Come Freedom on so many levels. Amateau is a talented writer and she illuminates this painful part of history for teens and middle graders with clarity, beautiful writing, and respect for that age group and what they should know about slavery. This stuff really happened, and while Amateau doesn’t shy away from the reality of the situation, she puts it out there in an age-appropriate manner – something I imagine must be difficult to do. Also she took a little-known figure in history, Gabriel, and turned him into a complex character with a mom, dad, brothers, and eventually a wife. She created a wonderful novel with so much going for it, and I am very glad I was given the opportunity to read this one. Highly recommended.For full review go to Book Addiction.

The Open Book: March 15, 2013

Amateau creates a believable, thrilling version of events that examines human motivation beyond the bare bones of the court records. For the complete review, visit The Open Book blog.

School Library Journal: March 12, 2013

This fictionalized biography of a rebel leader would be a fantastic supplement to classroom studies of the time period. Read the full review at School Library Journal. (Starred review, Audio)

Library Media Connection: March/April/2013

A combination of historical fiction and primary source documents lends this work a unique perspective, intertwining the narrative of Gabriel with facts related to being a Southern slave in the late 1700s. Demonstrating the perceived dangers of teaching slaves to read and think, Amateau offers insight into the fears of the slave owners. Readers follow Gabriel from his birth to his growing sense of dissatisfaction, and his leading of a rebellion. Romance, intrigue, sense of family, and loss are all covered in this novel based on a major figure in African-American history. This book will work well with any American history, ethics, or Social Studies curriculum covering the time of the American Revolution. It will engage all readers, particularly boys. The inclusion of primary documents to support and provide context will aid students in analyzing narratives in conjunction with original materials. Recommended

Teens' Top Ten Galley Review: January, 2013

The book, written from a slave’s point of view, tells a new story about determination and defiance when faced with only hopelessness. Gigi Amateau creates characters that one either becomes emotionally invested in, insanely curious about, or both.Helen Anderson

The Horn Book: January/February/2013

Gabriel Prosser (ca. 1775–1800) was born into slavery just as a new nation, conceived in liberty, was founded. By 1786, Gabriel’s mother “still believed, now that the war was ended and a new America waking, that freedom would surely soon come.” Gabriel grew up with freedom in the air, and news of the revolution in Haiti. “Can I not do for Virginia what Toussaint has done for his people?” Gabriel asks his wife, Nanny. With her encouragement, he decides to raise an army, and after months of clandestine meetings in taverns and shops around Richmond, Gabriel recruits black men from the countryside and the city, intending to arm soldiers with pitchforks and scythes and raid “Mr. Jefferson’s capitol.” But the plot is betrayed; the leaders, including Gabriel, are hanged; and a dream of freedom is deferred. In this beautifully written novel, Amateau makes Gabriel a fully realized character fighting not just for an abstract ideal of liberty but also for the freedom of Nanny and their future family. Amateau also makes good use of primary sources, sprinkling actual documents throughout the text. As did M. T. Anderson in his Octavian Nothing volumes (rev. 9/06; 9/08) and Kimberly Brubaker Bradley in Jefferson’s Sons (rev. 1/12), Amateau takes a long look at the tricky business of liberty in a new nation dedicated to freedom.

YA Central (5 star review!): November 29, 2012

This story is not just a fantastic novel but an incredible historical work. It would do those studying this period of history in school just as much good as it did me, a college graduate. Because as you read it, it is as if you are reaching through time and space to grasp Gabriel's hand or look into his eyes and say, "I believe in you. I am with you." A must-read. Read full review.

The Book Smugglers: 9/11/2012

A huge part of the book depicts Gabriel’s love for his wife Nanny, and this is a beautiful love story. An even greater part of the book depicts their shared love for the idea of freedom. And that’s the most beautiful thing of all. Read full review.

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books: October 2012

Amateau’s prose is appropriately passionate, but it’s tempered with disciplined restraint and moments of startling delicacy. Although the subject of this title will call to historical fiction readers who appreciate such thoughtful works as M. T. Anderson’s Octavian Nothing (BCCB 11/06), teens who approach history with the poetic insight of Marilyn Nelson will also find Amateau’s chronicle rewarding. R* - Exceptional recommended for all collections

The Rusty Key: 9/11/2012
Come August, Come Freedom sheds light onto an under-told story of American history that is as tender as it is fearless, as far reaching as it is focused. Gabriel may not have lived to see his people freed, but at last, his contribution to the cause has been given wings. Read full review.

Kirkus Reviews

historically accurate and beautifully written, an anguished tale told with poetry and heart Read full review.

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