“Children of Jubilee” is the third in the brilliant “Children of Exile” trilogy by adored children’s author Margaret Peterson Haddix. It’s the culmination of a series of books that, like many of her books, explore the themes of prejudice and children and how sometimes, children can see through the prejudices that adults have fallen prey to.
Throughout the “Children of Exile” series, Haddix points out the stupidity and futility of prejudice based on trivial traits such as skin color. In “Children of Jubilee,” Haddix expands that prejudice throughout the galaxy showing that humans may not be the only ones who are not perfect — all creatures have their frailties and foibles.
As Peterson is wont to do, she presents each book in the series from a different point of view. In the first book, “Children of Exile,” Rosi is a twelve-year-old girl, the oldest, in Fredtown. The children are raised by Fred-mamas and Fred-papas, and are told from a very young age that they were sent away from their parents for their own safety. They are taught kindness and order. They memorize quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Ghandi and other historical figures who urged change for the better. The children are polite and cooperative.
But when the children are sent home, their view of the world is upended. They are sent into a world where prejudice, fear, and anger drive the actions of their parents. The children are not allowed to talk to each other. Their parents are angry and treat them suspiciously. Rosi finds that her parents love her younger brother Bobo, but they treat her poorly. Her mother actually hits her — something unheard of in the Fredtown she grew up in. Evil Enforcers — the antithesis of the kindly Fred-people — arrest anyone who causes trouble or speaks out in any way.
Readers learn that prejudice can take many forms. One of the traits that the characters in this series base judgment on is eye color. Green is bad; brown is good. But when Rosi, eye color notwithstanding, innocently sets off a riot, she is imprisoned.
The second book, “Children of Refuge,” is told from the viewpoint of Edwys, a twelve-year-old boy who was always the rebel in Fredtown. He questioned everything and hated the constant moralizing that the adult Freds gave. But when he is taken to his hometown, he realizes that Fredtown wasn’t so bad. He is smuggled into Refuge City to be with his older brother and sister. They are not what he expected, and his life is not what his parents thought it would be. He ends up being a rebel there, too, but in a wonderful way.
“Children of Jubilee” brings the children from the first two books to another planet, where they are forced to work as slave labor, harvesting something that is used as energy on other planets. Haddix makes the “forced” part ingenious; the aliens actually take over the bodies of the children, forcing them to do things like eat food that tastes terrible and has the consistency of a disgusting cereal. The children cannot control their hands or mouths or anything, until at night when they are released into their cells, exhausted and hungry.
The children meet the natives of the alien planet, and there, the prejudices of both groups kick in. The aliens look like monsters to the children, but the children also realize that they look like monsters to the alien children. With the help of the young aliens, the children escape and try to stop the evil Enforcers from essentially taking control of the universe.
The book has many wonderful messages for young readers, not the least of which is that sometimes the youngest in a group might just have an open mind and accomplish more than the older, supposedly more knowledgable people in the group. Scifi fans will love this book, and a great idea would be to read the first one as a class read aloud and then have the subsequent two books available for kids to read on their own.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by Media Masters Publicity, for review purposes.