Rating 4 1/2 stars
“My Name is Not Friday” by Jon Walter is about a young boy who, while protecting his younger — and very mischievous — brother gets sold into slavery. He and his brother were orphans, children of free blacks during the Civil War, and they lived in an orphanage. But when Samuel gets sold, the slaver tells him, “Tomorrow is Friday. Now you better remember that day real good, ’cause from now on that’s gonna be your name.”
Samuel gets sold to a household where the absent father (who was fighting in the war for the South) believed in treating his slaves well. So his son befriends Samuel. Samuel hides the fact that his name isn’t Friday and that he was a freeborn black child. He was told by the overseer that if he told anyone, he’d be in danger. Samuel also learns that slaves are forbidden to read so he hides the fact that he can read. He convinces Gerald, the son of the house, to “teach” him to read, hiding the fact that he already knows how to read. He also convinces Gerald that Gerald’s father would want his slaves to be able to read, and Friday begins to teach them to read.
He decides that God brought him to the plantation so that he would teach the slaves there how to read. But when a chance to escape presents itself, he takes it.
This story is a wonderful combination of action and a thought-provoking plot. The reader often knows more about Samuel’s situation than he does, but his actions and decisions are admirable. Those who seem cruel and heartless are not always as they appear to be. Samuel does a lot of growing up, and over the course of the story he learns what the world is really like. The first person narration is beautifully done — touching and humorous at the same time.
This would be a great book for a novel study about slavery, the Civil War, freedom, and family. Probably best for seventh grade and older readers because of some of the content.
Please note: this review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by the publisher, Scholastic, for review purposes.