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Riding Freedom


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About the Author

Pam Munoz Ryan is the recipient of the NEA's Human and Civil Rights Award and the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award for multicultural literature. She has written more than thirty books which have garnered, among countless accolades, the Pura Belpre Medal, the Jane Addams Award, and the Schneider Family Award. Pam lives near San Diego. You can visit her at www.pammunozryan.com.

In addition to The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick is the illustrator of the Caldecott Honor winner, The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, and The New York Times Best Illustrated Walt Whitman: Words for America, both by Barbara Kerley, as well as the Sibert Honor Winner When Marian Sang, by Pam Munoz Ryan, and numerous other celebrated picture books and novels. Brian has also worked as a set designer and a puppeteer. When he isn't traveling to promote his work all over the world, he lives in San Diego, California, and Brooklyn, New York.


Gr 4-6‘This fictionalized biography of the first woman to vote in the state of California, and perhaps in the whole United States, is fascinating. Charlotte Parkhurst, known as Charley, spent most of her life masquerading as a man. Raised in an orphanage where she is the only girl, she is prevented from being adopted by the staff, who put her to work in the kitchen. Her own predilection is to be with the horses and the elderly man who cares for them. Vern's tales of escaping slavery are the seeds of Charlotte's own desperate bid for freedom after her only other friend is adopted. Her knack with horses soon enables the disguised Charley to pursue her dream of driving a stagecoach. She does it so well that she is admired and sought after, and is offered the opportunity to earn a livelihood in the California gold fields. Many trials arise, including the loss of sight in her left eye, but throughout, Charlotte remembers her friends, works hard and persistently, and fulfills her ambitions, culminating in her voting in a presidential election. The author provides a compact and exciting story about real people who exemplify traits that readers admire. A concluding note tells more about the historical facts surrounding Parkhurst's life, but kids will read it just for the adventure. The full-page, black-and-white pencil drawings are well rendered and enhance the straightforward text.‘Carol A. Edwards, Minneapolis Public Library

The true story of Charlotte "Charley" Darkey Parkhurst, a woman who lived her life disguised as a man so she could be a stagecoach driver, is the basis for this ebullient and tautly structured novel. Charlotte, a girl who "couldn't sew a stitch and didn't know a petticoat from a pea pod," does have a deep respect and a sixth sense for horses. When the head of her New Hampshire orphanage tells her she's banned from riding because she's a girl, she disguises herself as a boy, runs away to Worcester, Mass., and secures a job as Mr. Ebeneezer's stable hand. He takes "Charley" under his wing, teaching her to be the finest horseman and the best coachman in the state. As she guides her coach across the countryside, she tells her passengers, "I know my horses by heart and I'm not one for bad drivin', so hold tight!" Along the way, she encounters a wealth of characters, some good (Hay, her orphan friend; Vern, a freedman who tends the orphanage stables) and some bad (Mr. Millshark, the orphanage head), but all fully realized by Muñoz (Armadillos Sleep in Dugouts). Eventually, the heroine moves West, suffers a blow to her left eye that earns her the name "One-Eyed Charley," realizes her dream of owning her own property and, still disguised as a man, votes in the 1868 California presidential election‘now recognized as the first woman ever to vote in the U.S. With a pacing that moves along at a gallop, this is a skillful execution of a fascinating historical tale. Selznick's drawings, which have an "American Gothic" feel, highlight the dramatic moments. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)

"With a pacing that moves along at a gallop, this is a skillful execution of a fascinating historical tale." -Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Middle-schoolers will love the horse adventures and the stories of her trickery..."
--Booklist "Youngsters who liked Caddie Woodlawn better unreformed and who appreciate an atmospheric blend of grit, gorses, and history will want to take a ride with Charley." -Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

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