Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Reading And Walking: Amos Fortune, Free Man

Welcome to Reading and Walking, where I go for a stroll and attempt to listen to an entire audiobook. I’m going to review the book and show you what I saw on my walk. For this adventure, I chose to listen to Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates. I chose it because it won the Newbery Medal in 1951, and it’s short. The audiobook is 3 hours, 58 minutes. I knew I could walk for that long and finish the book in one afternoon.

Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates

Genre: Middlegrade historical fiction
Pages: 192 (3hr, 58 min audiobook)
Publication date: 1950
Content warning: Kidnapping, slavery, racism, death

Based on a true story! Captured by slave traders when only fifteen, At-mun never forgot his roots as a prince. Nor did he ever lose his princely dignity and the courage to hold his head high. Sold at auction in America and haunted by the memory of his young sister left behind in Africa, At-mun, now Amos, began his long march to freedom. He dreamed of being free and of buying the freedom of his closest friends. By the time he was sixty years old, Amos Fortune began to see those dreams come true.

He said little about his dream but he nourished it in his heart as the best place for a dream to grow.Amos Fortune, Free Man

While listening, I walked south on the Cherry Creek Regional Trail. I was walking toward civilization, so I actually saw other humans on this walk! (Other humans = competitive cyclists who use the path for training and who fly around curves so fast that I have to jump out of their way in order to not die painfully.)

When I started walking, it was 45°F (7°C) and very windy. As I walked, it got colder, and colder, and colder until I started questioning my life choices.

Cherry Creek.

It was so cold! And windy.

Watch out for bicycles and impending death. Neither of them slow down for curves.

Civilization! Kind of.

Okay, Amos Fortune. It’s based on the true story of a fifteen-year-old boy who was captured by slave traders in Africa and brought to New England in the early 1700s. Not much is known about the real Amos Fortune, so this book is not a biography. The author made most of it up. We do know that when Amos was in his 60s, he bought his freedom, started a tanning business, and made enough money to buy land for his family and freedom for other slaves. He eventually grew influential enough to become a well-respected leader in his town.

This book was written for children, but it’s different from most children’s books because Amos is an adult for most of the story. I like that. Since Amos is a slave for a lot of his existence, he doesn’t really get to live until he’s in his 60s. He has to wait that long to buy a house and start a business. His story shows you’re never too old to completely change your life.

I was impressed with Amos’s kindness. Even as a slave with limited resources, he always tries to do what’s right. As a young man, he goes to the docks to search slave auctions for his sister. When he gets older and starts making money, he saves for years to buy freedom for his friends. He’s always thinking of ways to do the most good with what he has.

This novel is extremely heavy handed with the Christianity. I suspect it’s the author’s own beliefs coming through, but it didn’t bother me very much because the real Amos Fortune was a Christian who left a lot of his fortune to a church after he died. I like that the book reflects the religious part of his life. Still, I know many readers get irritated when they want a story and get a sermon instead. The book gets very preachy at times.

What did bother me is Amos’s naivety. He’s able to learn English and a bunch of different household and job tasks, but he doesn’t understand that his sister won’t stay 12 years old forever? That doesn’t seem realistic.

Spying through the fence at a firefighter training exercise.

A prairie dog.

A squirrel.

Ducks in Cherry Creek.

The creek.

Sometimes when I read Newbery winners, I wonder what the award committee was thinking. Some of the winners are bland. Unfortunately, that was the case with this one. The events of Amos’s life feel shallow and watered-down. I think that’s because the book covers 91 years in 192 pages. There isn’t room for depth. Everything is glossed over. Amos falls in love three times, but the reader learns nothing about the women or why he loves them. The important women in Amos’s life just appear and then disappear a few pages later.

You can tell that this book was written for white readers in the 1950s. The black characters (except Amos) are underdeveloped, and the white characters are savior-types who do everything for Amos except give him his freedom. Amos’s thoughts and emotions about being a slave are mostly ignored. I found that disappointing.

Dead wildflowers. These look a lot more lively in summer.

A place to rest your feet (and get splinters in your butt).

Someone painted horses under a bridge. Also, there's a ruler to measure flood height.

The view from a bridge.

So, I didn’t love the book, but my walk was pretty nice. (Well, until the end.) I saw a coyote and petted a few dogs. Along the creek, there were so many robins, chickadees, and blackbirds that I had to turn up the volume on my phone to hear the book over their racket.

I had planned to walk for the entire book, but I decided to turn around 40 minutes early because it started raining. Then it started snowing. Then it got even windier. By the time I got home, I was drenched and had ice in my hair. My shoes were covered in mud. I ended up walking about 7 miles in a little over 3 hours. I really hope those noisy birds are a sign that spring is coming.

This water looks so cold!

So much mud.

A reservoir.

There are a million signs telling you not to touch the water, walk on the ice, or eat the fish you catch. What the heck is in that water?

Disobedient geese. They're touching the water and walking on the ice!

Do you go for walks? Where’s your favorite place to walk?


  1. Yes I do go for walks and I walked there too AJ! I can't do it often obviously as I live in Belgium but one of my favorite places to walk are your National Parks! Rocky Mountain National Park was amazing too! We plan to get back there in the summer of 2020.

    1. I love Rocky Mountain National Park! I camped there often when I was a kid.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. wow what a beautiful route for walking :D wonderful pictures even during winter everything is scenic!
    I sometimes question newbury winners as well ;/ I'm sorry this one didn't work for you . I think all the gloss overs would bother me also, since there doesn't seem to have much development.

    1. Yeah, I think the book was too short. The author didn’t go into depth about anything.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. Great pictures! Hopefully next time the weather will be warmer.

  4. Well, I'm curious, and I just added the book. I didn't know about it at all until I read this. And I'm curious as all can be. Great pictures from your walk! Thanks for this posting!
    Rebecca @ The Portsmouth Review

  5. I love this post. I'm sorry to hear the book itself was bland, but I love seeing the sights with you as you went for your walk.

  6. The book sounds interesting to me, even though you didn't love it. But I love your walk. Here, I mostly walk at night, watching the stars and heading down to the marina and listening to the wind. But last night, as I do several times a week, I listened to a book in the gym!


    1. I’ve walked at night a few times, but it’s so dark! There aren’t streetlights on the paths. I can’t see where I’m going.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  7. I love those type of posts. Glad you are getting into audiobooks.

  8. Prairie dogs for the win, and wow! You are walking a lot. I am jealous, because I need more exercise. Though not necessarily my sort of book, I appreciate the educational value for youngsters and like the idea that you're never too old to get a life.

    1. I walk the dog almost every day. I’m trying to do one multi-hour walk every month. The audiobooks help motivate me.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  9. This is such a genius idea! One of my goals is to walk more so maybe I'll attempt to finish a book to motivate me.

    This book sounds hella intense, especially since it's based on true events.

    Here's hoping there is no ice on your next walk.

    1. I REALLY hope there’s no ice on the next walk. I’m getting tired of ice.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  10. I have the same thoughts about many of the Newbery winners. It's like they are judged on the message rather than if they are written in a way that will interest that age group, and what good is the message if the kids won't read the book. 😏

    I always love your photos. 🌄

    I like to walk the river trail in my city, but I'm usually stuck walking my neighborhood, which after about five blocks is more hood than neighbor. Ha ha. I also love to walk the mall. 😁 Don't hate me. 😇

  11. I love going for walks - living in Welsh Valleys, there is no shortage of places to explore. Walking as a season is soon to shift is one of my favourite times, noting all the nature and wildlife as you have here. I love seeing your photos in these posts, as the landscape varies to my own, but I also quite look forward to your commentary also - love your sense of humour.

    Interesting thoughts on this book... As you started talking about it, I thought hey, I might pick this book up, but then the more you shared, the more I was put off. Started well, and ended not quite so - kind of like your walk!

  12. Sounds like a very unpleasant walk! The signs remind me of when I went to the ONLY decent nature anywhere in Illinois and there were tons of signs warning people not to touch the water due to pesticide runoff. We have such lovely sites around here!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction