Hammering for Freedom

By School Library Journal

Winner of the 13th Lee & Low New Voices Award, Hubbard tells the true story of William “Bill” Lewis, who was born into slavery and used his blacksmithing skills to buy his freedom—and, over time, the freedom of his entire extended family. Lewis’s story is one of many in Hubbard’s recent book, African Americans of Chattanooga: A History of Unsung Heroes. Hubbard, also from Chattanooga, emphasizes Lewis’s hard work and artistry throughout the story with the “Clang! Clang!” of his hammer and his long days beginning with “bluish-purple sunrises” and ending in “burnt-orange sunsets.” Historical details about the time period and Lewis’s life are expanded upon in the afterword. Holyfield’s vivid and detailed oil paintings use a palette of muted oranges, reds, and browns and cool blues and greens. Holyfield is especially adept at capturing emotions: Lewis’s weariness and determination as he forges Chattanooga’s town bell, the unkindness in slaver Colonel Lewis’s eyes (he was the biological father of Lewis), and the joy on Lewis’s and his wife Jane’s faces after he bought their freedom. VERDICT A well-crafted picture book biography that belongs in every elementary nonfiction collection.