Sophie wished for an adventure during her summer in the bayou and that’s exactly what she got in The Freedom Maze. A thirteen year old with divorced parents, Sophie Fairchild Martineau got dropped off at her aunt and grandmother’s home on her family’s old sugar plantation so that her mother could work and go to school. She wants to find an adventure like the ones she is always reading about; staying in an old, hot house in Louisiana with her boring aunt and annoyingly proper grandmother doesn’t cut it. While exploring the plantation’s old maze, Sophie hears and later meets a magical being; she calls it the Creature. When she wishes for an adventure, the Creature grants her wish and sends her 100 years into the past; all the way back to 1860.
After exploring the bayou in the hot sun, Sophie is tanned and her hands and feet are rough; she is easily mistaken for a slave by her ancestors when she finds herself in 1860 on the Fairchild sugar plantation. Since she is still lighter skinned than most of the other slaves on the plantation, she is sent to work as a personal servant for Old Missy, the plantation owner. As she makes it over the hurdles of her first learning curve of slavery, Sophie finds herself making friends with other slaves. Even so, she desperately wants to return home to 1960; she finds the Creature but he tells her that she must finish her story first. When a friend is taken advantage of, Sophie has to help, but without getting caught.
The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman is a well written and understandable novel. Reading it felt natural and it was easy to relate to Sophie while she struggled to succeed. There was a lot of dialogue in a more Southern slang style, but it made sense and wasn’t too obscure or confusing. It is difficult to write a novel combining so many elements; time travel, history, growing up, and regional details and language; but Sherman managed to do it and create a cohesive, enjoyable tale. I personally enjoyed the historical aspect of Sophie’s journey with all of the excellent insight to one of America’s toughest times. It is unlike any book I have ever read with both history and fantasy, although I found that the history stood out above the fantasy. Therefore, I would recommend it to 7th and 8th grade girls who enjoy historical fiction; it really is written more towards girls than boys. Also, it is currently an advance copy novel through Candlewick Press, but it has been published before through a smaller company. The Freedom Maze was an excellent and well written historical novel that should definitely be considered by middle school girls.