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Cover image for Robert Smalls : the boat thief
Robert Smalls : the boat thief
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Hyperion Books for Children, c2008.
Physical Description:
viii, 40 p. : ill. (some col.), map ; 29 cm.
Reading Level:
NC 1260 L Lexile
Personal Subject:
Added Author:
"Robert Smalls was a true American patriot. Despite the burdens America laid upon him, he loved our country. He believed in the "inherent justice" of American democracy and in the principles espoused in the Declaration of Independence"--Afterword.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 921 SMALLS 1 1

On Order



On a moonlit night in the spring of 1862, six slaves stole one of the Confederacy's most crucial gunships from its wharf in the South Carolina port of Charleston, and delivered it to the Federal Navy.  This audacious and intricately coordinated escape, masterminded by a 24-year-old sailor named Robert Smalls, astonished the world and exploded the Confederate claim that Southern slaves did not crave freedom or have the ability to take decisive action.   Robert Smalls's heroic career had only begun.  A brilliant sailor and strategist, he was quickly promoted to the rank of captain in the Federal Navy where he served courageously in many critical battles.  Not only was Smalls a great soldier, he was also a powerful activist, whose appeal to Abraham Lincoln convinced the president to enlist 5,000 former slaves, shattering the color barrier that had kept black men out of the service.  Smalls drew great crowds as an eloquent public speaker, and his outstanding character inspired the broad public support that encouraged Lincoln to ratify the Emancipation Proclamation.   Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. tells the story of another great American hero, a man who did not flinch in the face of extraordinary dangers--a man whose dedication to the cause of freedom made him one the most important participants in the American Civil War.

Author Notes

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is an American environmental activist, attorney, radio talk show host, and author. He serves as Chief Prosecuting Attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper and President of Waterkeeper Alliance.

Born on January 17, 1954, in Washington, D.C., Kennedy is the son of former U. S. Senator for New York and U. S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and nephew of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy. He received his B.A. from Harvard University in American History and Literature and studied at the London School of Economics. He obtained his J.D. from the University of Virginia Law School and attended Pace University School of Law, where he was awarded a Master's Degree in Environmental Law.

Among Mr. Kennedy's published books are: Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak, the New York Times' bestseller Crimes Against Nature, St. Francis of Assisi: A Life of Joy, The Riverkeepers, and Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr.: A Biography. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Atlantic Monthly and many other publications. His award winning articles have been included in anthologies of America's Best Crime Writing, Best Political Writing and Best Science Writing.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-This title celebrates the life of a little-known African-American hero. Born into slavery off the coast of South Carolina, Smalls later saved $700-almost enough to buy his young family's freedom. When the birth of a second child put a higher price on the prize, he started thinking of escape. In May of 1862, as a deckhand on a Confederate battleship, he and a small group of slaves and their families boarded the Planter in the dead of night and sailed off, delivering the ironclad to a squadron of Union warships. Not only were they safe and free, but Smalls and his crew were recognized by President Lincoln. As a Captain in the Union army, he would later convince the president to enlist 5000 former slaves, "shattering the color barrier that had kept blacks out of military service." After the war, Smalls joined the state senate and later served five terms in the House of Representatives. Despite the picture-book format, the book's lengthy text with sophisticated sentences and challenging vocabulary is best suited to older readers. Handsome single-page and full-spread paintings along with smaller black-and-white sketches enhance the narrative. This engaging biography sheds light on an interesting man and unique time in American history.-Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

In the latest entry in Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s American Heroes series, Kennedy focuses not only on the daring escape Smalls made to freedom but also on Smalls as a political hero, especially his important role in the emancipation of slaves and in improving things for blacks during Reconstruction. The tone is sometimes too inspirational (he was always noble and modest and spoke confidently for the cause of freedom ), but readers will still be able to appreciate the gripping history of how Smalls influenced Lincoln and how for 50 years, including during his six terms in Congress, he fought for American democracy and for the rights of the oppressed of all races even at a time when the white supremacists in his state were triumphant. Like others in the sseries the volume features many illustrations including maps,  small black-and-white portraits, and stirring, full-color scenes of ocean battles. A bibliography is planned but was not available for review.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2008 Booklist

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