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  • Stealing Freedom
  • Written by Elisa Carbone
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  • Stealing Freedom
  • Written by Elisa Carbone
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307560193
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Written by Elisa CarboneAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Elisa Carbone


List Price: $6.99


On Sale: December 30, 2008
Pages: 272 | ISBN: 978-0-307-56019-3
Published by : Yearling RH Childrens Books
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Inspired by a true story, the riveting novel of a young slave girl's harrowing escape to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

The moment Ann Maria Weems was born, her freedom was stolen from her. Like her family and the other slaves on the farm, Ann works from sunup to sundown and obeys the orders of her master. Then one day, Ann's family -- the only joy she knows -- is gone. Just 12 years old, Ann is overcome by grief, struggling to get through each day. And her only hope of stealing back her freedom and finding her family lies in a perilous journey: the Underground Railroad.

Ann Maria Weems was an actual slave who lived in the mid-1800s near the author's home in Maryland.
Elisa Carbone

About Elisa Carbone

Elisa Carbone - Stealing Freedom

Photo © Sharon Natoli

“Novels are teaching tools. While the imagination is entertained, the brain absorbs all sorts of information about human nature, history, or how to make guacamole. That’s the fun of writing—I get to teach and entertain at the same time.”—Elisa Carbone

Elisa Carbone’s historical novel Stealing Freedom was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.


Elisa Carbone used to teach in the Speech Communications department at the University of Maryland, but now she is enjoying being a full-time writer and part-time rock climber, windsurfer, and white-water kayaker. “The physical exertion of the sports balances out the mental exertion of writing,” she says. She loves doing the research required to write historical fiction and is fascinated by the small details of everyday life in the past. Ms. Carbone’s “Sarah” books (Starting School with an Enemy and Sarah and the Naked Truth) have been praised for their accessibility to reluctant readers.


Born: January 2 in Washington, DC

Previous jobs: Taught in the Speech Communications department at the University of Maryland. Before that, I’d been a dance teacher and taught piano and guitar lessons.

Inspiration for writing: Things that make me laugh and fascinating stories from the past that have not yet been told.

Favorite foods: Baked potatoes (boring, huh?)

Favorite clothes to wear: Sweatpants with T-shirts in the summer and a sweater in the winter—and sandals all year round!

Favorite colors: Purple! I wear purple virtually every day, and even buy purple climbing ropes and paint my toenails purple.

Favorite books: Any book that makes me laugh or is beautifully written.


“Imaginatively and sensitively adapted from the historical records, this portrait will evoke admiration for the courage of both those who resisted slavery and those who endured it.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“This historical novel combines the appeal of exciting escape adventure with authentic details of the time and place. Carbone’s research is meticulous.”—Booklist

“The spunky ten-year-old heroine of Starting School with an Enemy is back, and she’s welcome.”—Kirkus Reviews

“This middle-grade novel belongs at the head of its class.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“Will keep even reluctant readers hooked until the end.”—School Library Journal

Praise | Awards


"A deftly crafted story with a strong, appealing heroine." -- School Library Journal, Starred

"Imaginatively and sensitively adapted from historical records, [Stealing Freedom] will evoke admiration for the courage of both those who resisted slavery and those who endured it." -- Publishers Weekly, Starred

"Riveting . . . a thrilling and hopeful novel." -- Columbus Dispatch


WINNER 2000 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
NOMINEE 2002 Arizona Young Readers Award
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide


Ann Marie Weems, the main character in Stealing Freedom, is born a slave on a small Maryland farm where her family lives and works for the Price family. The Weems family endures cruelty common to all slaves during the preñCivil War era, but Ann faces the ultimate mistreatment when she is separated from her family. Armed with courage and determination, Ann accepts an offer to travel via the dangerous Underground Railroad to Canada in an effort to steal her freedom.


Elisa Carbone devotes much time to researching the historical facts that are the basis for her novels. Her passion for North Carolinaís Outer Banks, which is the setting for Storm Warriors, began with windsurfing and increased when she learned about the fascinating history of the Outer Banks. Her love of history is also evident in Stealing Freedom, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

Elisa Carbone divides her time between West Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed novel Starting School with an Enemy.


In the Classroom

The historical setting, the very real characters, and the strong sense of story make these novels by Carbone excellent choices for read-aloud or class novel study. Please note that these books do not need to be discussed together. Each title represents strong content that can be taught independent of one another, but the themes in both are similar enough to conduct a dual book study.

Discussion questions related to the themes of courage, freedom, prejudice and bigotry, and family offer students the opportunity to think about the tough choices that African Americans faced in the 1800s during pre- and post-Civil War times. This guide also offers activities that link the language arts, social studies, science, music, and art curriculum.

Pre-Reading Activity

Stealing Freedom is set before the Civil War, and Storm Warriors is set post-Civil War in the late 1800s. Engage students in a discussion regarding the treatment of African Americans during these times. Ask them to make a split-screen collage that contrasts the way African Americans lived pre- and post-Civil War. Encourage them to use photocopied pictures, writing, quotations, etc. in their collages.

Thematic Connections

Courage--In Stealing Freedom, Ann wonders, "which required more courage: to be a fugitive, or to be the one to help the fugitive to safety." (p. 213) Engage the class in a discussion about the courage it took for both parties.

Ask students to consider which required more courage in Storm Warriors: to be the rescuer or the rescued? Nathan says, "I know it takes courage to meet a storm head on. . . ." (p. 74, Storm Warriors) Compare and contrast Ann and Nathan's courage. What is Ann's "storm"?

Freedom--Ask students to explain what Annís father means when he says, "Anyone born a slave gets their freedom stolen the day theyíre born." (p. 19, Stealing Freedom) What is the irony in the phrase "stealing freedom"? When Ann is in hiding at Mr. Bigelow's house, she says, "How strange it felt to be free and yet to be a prisoner." (p. 163, Stealing Freedom)

Compare Ann's feeling to Nathan's in Storm Warriors. What is Nathan's prison? Figuratively, how does Nathan have to steal his freedom?

Prejudice and Bigotry --Stealing Freedom is set pre-Civil War when mistreatment of African Americans was overt, whereas Storm Warriors is set postñCivil War when racial prejudice was present but less obvious. How might Nathan's Grandpa identify with the bigotry that Ann feels in Stealing Freedom?

Have the class read the "Author's Note" at the end of Storm Warriors. How did racial prejudice and bigotry contribute to the fact that the keeper and the crew of the Pea Island Life-Saving Station weren't honored with the Gold Life-Saving Medal until 100 years later?

Family--Ask students to discuss how the Weems family in Stealing Freedom has a stronger sense of family than the Price family. Define the term "extended family." How do the people involved with the Underground Railroad become a surrogate family to Ann? Describe Nathan's family in Storm Warriors. Discuss how the surfmen on Pea Island might be considered an extended family for Nathan.

Interdisciplinary Connections

Language Arts--In pre-Civil War days, it was against the law to teach a slave to read. Ann learns to read when she tends to Sarah, a relative of Master Charles and Mistress Carol. Read Nightjohn or Sarny: A Life Remembered by Gary Paulsen. Write a letter that Ann might write to Nightjohn or Sarny commending them for their work in teaching African Americans to read.

In Storm Warriors, Nathan feels extremely close to his grandfather. He listens to his grandfatherís stories and wishes that his grandfather's dreams could have been fulfilled. Ask students to assume the role of Nathan and write a tribute to be read at his grandfather's funeral.

Social Studies--In Stealing Freedom, Ann travels by the Underground Railroad to Canada. Have students construct a map of Eastern United States and indicate the major routes of the Underground Railroad. Using clues from the novel, plot the route that Ann Weems possibly traveled.

The United States Life-Saving Service later became the United States Coast Guard. Ask students to research the history of the Coast Guard. Then have them develop a timeline of the work of the United States Coast Guard-from its birth on August 4, 1790, to the present.

Music--Ann Weems loves to sing. Ask students to locate and learn some of the African American work songs and spirituals that Ann may have sung. Also have students find seafaring songs that Nathan may have enjoyed in Storm Warriors.

Art--United States postage stamps often honor outstanding and courageous Americans. Have students find pictures of postage stamps that have honored African Americans. Then have them design a stamp that honors the Pea Island Life-Saving crew.

Science--The men at the Pea Island Life-Saving Station in Storm Warriors communicate using Morse code. Ask students to research Samuel Morse. How might Morse code be considered an early life-saving device? What signals and codes do ships and life-saving stations use today?

In Storm Warriors, Nathan takes books from the Life-Saving Station and learns about medical treatments that might be necessary in rescue missions. Have students research the type of first-aid materials that might have been available in the late 1890s. Then have them construct a first-aid kit that might be used in rescue missions today. How have first-aid measures changed in the past 100 years?

Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, the South Carolina Governorís School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, South Carolina.


Ask students to record unfamiliar words and try to define the words using clues from the context of the story. In Stealing Freedom, such words may include ferreting (p. 44), lecherous (p. 45), mulatto (p. 73), guano (p. 76), apparition (p. 97), placid (p.113), exorbitant (p. 158), and daguerreotype (p. 213).

In Storm Warriors, such words may include phantom (p. 15), vermilion (p. 18), resuscitation (p. 19), hypothermia (p. 72), vendue (p. 95), seine (p. 111), and rogue (p. 136).


Reviews for Stealing Freedom

*"A deftly crafted story with a strong, appealing heroine."--Starred, School Library Journal

*"Imaginatively and sensitively adapted from historical records, Stealing Freedom will evoke admiration for the courage of both those who resisted slavery and those who endured it."--Starred, Publishers Weekly

Review for Storm Warriors

"This is a beautifully told story, marked by convincing, distinctive characters and stirring descriptions of the surfmen's highly skilled and highly dangerous work."--School Library Journal


A Dangerous Promise by Joan Lowery Nixon[0-440-21965-5]
Dear Austin by Elvira Woodruff, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter[0-375-80356-4]
Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen[0-385-30838-8]
North by Night by Katherine Ayres[0-385-32564-9]
Sarny by Gary Paulsen[0-385-32195-3]



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