Scholastic Canada | Dear Canada - Make History Your Own

Dear Canada: A step back in time


A Desperate Road to Freedom

A Desperate Road to Freedom
The Underground Railroad Diary of Julia May Jackson

By Karleen Bradford

ISBN: 978-0-545-99619-8 Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-4431-2408-9 Ebook
224 pages | Ages 8-12 | 5 3/8" x 7 5/8"

Julia May and her family have done the unthinkable. They have fled from their life of slavery on a tobacco plantation in Virginia and are making their way north, on foot, where they have heard that slaves can be free. The journey takes them through swamps, travelling by night and hiding by day. The diary that Julia May keeps is another act of bravery. Learning to read and write alongside her mistress at the plantation was her own secret and forbidden as a slave. Julia May's diary records her fears and the extraordinary things she sees during her voyage and keeps her going through the hard times until they are finally free.

Read an excerpt Read the reviews

From Julia May's diary:

It's barely light enough to see my pages, but I can manage.

Joseph was having a bad dream. I don't wonder after what happened that day. He might be only five years old and not sure what's going on, but he knows enough to be scared. I got him settled back down before any of the others woke up, but then I couldn't sleep. Too many pictures in my head that I didn't want to see.

When we heard the dogs we all froze. Then the lady grabbed us and pulled us into some thick bushes and we huddled there, all holding onto each other. The bushes prickled something awful, but we none of us paid them any mind at all. We heard the dogs coming closer and closer, baying and howling just the way they were the night Uncle Bo got caught. Men were shouting, too. The noise was fierce and it was coming straight at us. I held my breath and prayed as hard as I could. I knew real well those dogs could smell us easy as could be in those bushes. All I could think of was Uncle Bo shot and hanging dead in that tree.

When it seemed they were right about to crash into us, I started to cry. Couldn't help it. I was so scared I even wet myself. Just as I closed my eyes and waited to feel those teeth tearing into me, I heard the dogs run past. Right past us! And then it sounded like they went crazy.

"They got him!" someone cried. At the same time, I heard a man scream. The man screamed again. And again. I never in my life heard anything so terrible. I heard a shot, and the screaming stopped. That quiet was even worse than the screaming.

We stayed huddled there together while the men called to the dogs, and went off, laughing and joking. Joseph was hanging tight to Papa and wouldn't even look up. Papa kept soothing him and rubbing his back, telling him things were all right. Finally, the lady signalled to us to stay hidden while she made certain they had all gone. When she came back, she beckoned to us to follow her.

"Safe now," she said.

But I don't think I'll ever feel safe again.

From Dear Canada: A Desperate Road to Freedom, copyright © 2009 by Karleen Bradford.


I really do love this book. People can tell about Julia May + Noah once you get farther and farther, like the part where he asks to read with Julia May, or when Julia May goes to visit him after his leg got cut open. It's amazing! PS. Ever got so bored you looked up the person on the cover? Try it! I did...
Jacko T., Age 13, Ontario, Rating: 9

I love this book because it makes me cry
Harkaryn, Age 10, Manitoba, Rating: 10

This book is amazing. I have to do a book report about it and it is very easy because you put all information everywhere. Your book inspires me and I hope more people will read it.
Jade B., Age 10, Alberta, Rating: 10

It is a really awesome book to read at school! My friends and me love to read them!
Hailey H., Age 9, Saskatchewan, Rating: 10

This book is really good. I did not get to finish it but the point that I had to stop was nerve racking. I will get it back at my school library and continue from where I stopped
Venessa K., Age 10, Ontario, Rating: 10

This book brought me to tears it was so good and sad. I love your work and please keep it up you rock
Quinn R., Age 12, Ontario, Rating: 10

You did it again, Dear Canada! A great story. I'm an African, and can totally understand Julia May. I think about her all the time, and tell people about her story. Great job, again!
Peace M., Age 10, Ontario, Rating: 8

I love this book so much! This is the first Dear Canada book that I ever finished! I loved it! :D
Alyssa M., Age 12, Newfoundland and Labrador, Rating: 10

I loved this book. I live in Owen Sound and it was so cool to hear about a part of our history I never knew!
Christina K., Age 15, Ontario, Rating: 10

This was the fist book of the Dear Canada series that I read, and because I read it, I was hooked! Now I read Dear Canada books all of the time. My goal for next year, is to read the whole series! I liked this book because it had something in it for everyone, and it is very exciting. Once you start reading it, you can't stop!
Flora F., Age 13, Ontario, Rating: 9

This book is so good! I love how it makes you feel as scared and as happy as Julia May. I let my best friend read this book during reading period (if I remember to bring it) and she loves it. I'm re-reading it again and I'm almost done. I can't wait to read more Dear Canada!
Zoe E., Age 10, Rating: 8

This book was amazing. I couldn't stop reading it. If you want to read a book that you literally can't put down read this one I am not joking!!!!!
Wendy N., Age 12, British Columbia, Rating: 10

I love this book and how it has a happy ending. It's sad and happy at the same time. Julia May is so brave!
Emily W., Age 10, British Columbia, Rating: 10

I loved this book. I live in Owen Sound and it was so cool to hear about a part of our history I never knew!
Christina K., Age 15, Ontario, Rating: 10