Title: Home is with Our Family
Author: Joyce Hansen
Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
Publisher: Jump at the Sun Books - Disney Group
Concepts: property rights, slavery, racial inequality, social justice, public goods
Review: Maria Peters wanted nothing more for her thirteenth birthday than to attend an abolitionist meeting and hear the passionate and eloquent Sojourner Truth speak about freedom. Her entry into adolescence brought even greater awareness of the realities around her in New York City when she heard news that the city government was using its power of eminent domain to take over an enormous parcel of land in central Manhattan to create a park. All the renters and squatters who lived between 59th and 106th Streets, in between Fifth and Eighth Avenues, would be evicted from their homes. Property owners would be compensated with what city officials deemed to be a fair value for their land.
Maria and her family lived in a free black settlement within this large tract, and they were convinced that the amount of money the city had offered for their properties was too low. With her excellent writing skills, the community needed Maria's help to draft a petition and begin to fight back. At the same time, Maria met a new friend, Anna, whose own problems seemed to dwarf the troubles that Maria could not seem to keep herself out of at school. Would Maria be able to get past her own inclinations for trouble and help those around her who needed it most?
This middle-grade work of historical fiction builds upon real events surrounding the removal of a free African American settlement from land marked for creation of New York City's Central Park. Although the plot moves somewhat slowly, the historical context provides an interesting opportunity to talk about property rights and the ethics of government expropriation of land for the public good.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children