‘kidnapped By Slaves’ Is A Great Read For Teenagers

It is a novella. It is written by Donna Jo Napoli. Fit for teenagers. And it is acceptable, without serious flaps and flaws in the in morals. But it can also make a good read for adults with a keen nose for the printed word. It is still new from the publisher. Only published within some couple of months ago in 2014.It was published by Simon & Schuster and Paula Wiseman Books. It has 384 pages.

The book is known as Kidnapped by the Slaves. In this book, an eight-year-old Brigid is determined to make good of every bad situation. She is also sassy and spunky. Values so expected in any Irish princess. But she is unfortunately kidnapped by Russian raiders. However just like in a novella Captured by the Raiders, written in 1980 by a Kenyan; Benjamin Wekesa, Brigid also is tortured by emotions of being sold into slavery by the Russians that kidnapped her. More tormenting experience to Brigid is the fact that her young fifteen-year-old sister, Melkorka is sold along with her into slave ship. Here the books make adult readers to remember themes of violence on slaves as narrated by Alex Haley in The Roots. Brigid fine-tunes a plan to escape from the slave ship by encouraging her sister so that they both jump out of the ship and swim to the shore. But Brigid jumps alone. She jumps alone for reasons that look like those ones narrated by Leo Tolstoy in the short story, The Prisoner of Caucusus. Brigid escapes alone leaving her sister Melkorka to stay on board. Now the young princess lands herself in strange land but she remains peppy by ensuring that she must fend for herself in an unknown land. Although somehow frightened rigid displays some audacity and determination to find back her sister so that they can both return to Ireland together. This feeling makes the snappy Brigid to be self-compelled into fighting for her survival.

Napoli brings in biblical, Greek or Russian styles of writing into the book when he shows the young Brigid behaving like Anastasia in Tolstoy’s War and Peace, by having to take refuge in a barn. From a hideout, She witnesses a young woman secretly gives birth and abandons the baby. Then here the writer borrows narrating style from Leo Tolstoy’s What Men Live by. By having the gutsy Brigid to save the child and then seeks help at the local farmer's dwelling.

Now like what happened to baby Moses in Egypt, The local rich family begrudgingly takes in Brigid and the baby. Out of her plucky nature, she lives there for three years. But amid protests and frustrations. Brigid now gets renamed by the host family as Alfhild.

On a concurrent unfolding; the baby's mother leave with a traveling storyteller. The girl goes ahead to wed the story teller and then Alfhild lives with the couple. What a cross purpose and dramatic asides? She stayed with the couple until a local boy discovers she is Irish. And the Irish men and women were not accepted in that land. Again Alfhild goes zippy as usual and takes off with the salvaged baby. Eventually saving the baby’s life. As a way of expressing gratitude for what she had done with life of the baby, the king and queen of that land adopts Alfhild. But Alfhild takes the advantage of the situation to take her time until she is old enough to track down her sister, Melkorka. When men expressed affinitive interest in her, she takes it as an opportunity for her accomplishment of her primary mission; she decides to escape by using suitors, several female servants and slaves. She made them to accompany her on outing trips. She influences them by basing on their amorous weakness to steal a ship for her so that they go about to have some looking and seeing at things found or happening at the sea ports She also maneuvers them by towering them emotionally , to have accompany her in roaming the seas in the manner of the pirates. She goes philanthropic by using her meager means to rescue women and children from slave traders until Brigid finally finds Melkorka. She shrewdly plots to rescue her from slave-hood by buying her from the slave owner. Nicely fitting in with Harriet Becheter Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Children's books cannot be good unless they are laced with unrealistic plots. What makes this historical novel difficult to assess plainly is the prevalence of blending child-friendly fantastic events, mature or well sussed content and standard of English to meet the basic reading level. The publisher recommends this book for teenagers given its no doubt about the vocabulary and literary style.

Several scenes in this book however, may not be good for middle-school aged children. Notable among them is; the illegitimate birth and attempted infanticide at the inception stage of the story, there are various references to sexual abuse of slaves, including the apparent gang rape of a slave woman. Also the eventuality of brief nudity in the story makes the book not absolutely fit for consumption by the minors. Even if the incidents are not overly narrated they are categorically and certainly not essential. Thus, by extension they disqualify this story for younger and callow readers.

A peculiar theme gives the book some un-debatable moral value; In spite of gender based violence where the abuse of women by men is vividly clear in the story, Brigid never summarily blames all men for her plight. She only pins blame to those specific men with warped respect for the rights of the weak and poor in the society. Along the way, she meets very kind and just men. Because she also eventually falls in love with a man and gets married. Virtually Brigid’s husband dwarfs the rest; He demonstrates great and chivalrous love for her. He often refuses to take advantage of her whenever she is in a vulnerable situation. He treats her with genuine admiration and soft tenderness. He protects her fully and equally respects her full freedom and independence of conscience of her mind. It is a dystopian lesson that shames most of us that thrive on cacotopian acts to others as we dream for utopia like success for ourselves. Enjoy reading.

Alexander Khamala Opicho
Lodwar, Kenya

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Articles by Alexander Opicho