“Yes, ma’am,” Addy said softly. She didn’t want to tell Miss Dunn that Momma couldn’t read or write. And she didn’t want Harriet to overhear her say it.Connie Porter, Addy Learns a Lesson
I recently finished the second book in the American Girls series about Addy, a former slave girl in 1864 living in Philadelphia. This book, Addy Learns a Lesson: A School Story by Connie Porter and illustrated by Melodye Rosales, Renée Graef, and Jane S. Varda, starts to explore how freedom isn’t quite what Addy pictured it being.
Just as there were no easy answers or clear happy endings in the first book, Meet Addy, things are complicated for Addy and her mother here as well. It’s one thing to reach freedom, but it’s another thing to make a life there. The book focuses on the difficulties that Addy and her mother have in not being able to read and the struggle with not wanting anyone to know that, but this book also explores other challenges and disappointments that punctuate their new lives in Philadelphia.
I appreciated that the book explored the ways that Addy’s expectations don’t match her new experiences, but also the ways that her life has changed both for the better and otherwise. She may not be able to afford more than one dress, but she is learning to read – a skill she wasn’t allowed to acquire as a slave in the south. On the other hand, she misses being able to sit with Momma as she works, which Momma’s new employer doesn’t allow in her shop. Every change comes with ups and down and the story doesn’t shy away from those.
Back on the plantation, Addy had dreamed about being free in the North. She’d wear fancy dresses, she’d learn to read and write, she’d spend more time with Momma. She had imagined that everything would magically be better when she was free. But so far, freedom wasn’t the way she dreamed it would be.Connie Porter, Addy Learns a Lesson
Addy and her mother had to leave behind their family, Poppa, Sam, and baby sister Esther, when they ran away. Just as they have no idea the fates of these loved ones, the reader gets no clue as to where they are or how they are doing. Just like Addy, we are left to wonder with no comforting reassurances beyond the hope that the family will be safely reunited someday.
I liked how this expanded on Addy’s story and explored the complexities of her life at this stage. It does a fantastic job of dealing with dark and difficult themes in a way that never loses hope. The characters are not incredibly complex, but they are believable. Porter does an excellent job with Addy’s story. The illustrations continue to be well done and I still love the little inset images that help the reader along. This is a really well designed book.
- Illustrator Melodye Rosales’ Website
- Illustrator Renée Graef’s Website
- American Girl Addy Page
- Addy at the American Girl Wiki
- A Brief Overview of the American Civil War