Draper, H. M. (2008). Copper sun. New York: Atheneum. ISBN: 0689821816.
"Cato say go south, "Amari insisted. "And he also said the streets were paved with gold. Cato's story is just an old slave's tale about a place that doesn't even exist!" "This place he called Fort Mose is just a pretend place he's heard of--like the Promised Land--a place you go when you die. And I don't want to die--not yet!" -page 208
Amari, a 15-year-old girl is captured from her tribe in Africa and sold in to slavery to become the birthday present of a 16-year-old plantation owner's son. This is a story of hope and survival as Amari tries to escape slavery by running away to a potentially mythical place in Florida where "slavery does not exist and the streets are paved with gold".
Copper Sun is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of Amari, a captured African that is sold in to slavery. The character descriptions are rich and well developed, and the story is riveting as Amari goes from one horrific landscape customary of the American slave trade to another. Draper paints a gritty and realistic portrait of what would be customary of a captured slave girl from Africa. The atrocities which take place are shocking, but very much a reality of our American history.
Draper's biggest strength in this novel is her integrity of character and reference to historically accurate places and practices of the time; The only weakness would be the predictable ending and some contrived characters and scenario's found throughout the novel. Copper Sun would be a good starter book for young adults and teens that are just becoming familiar with the history of America and the African Slave Trade.
Gillian Engberg (Booklist, Feb. 1, 2006 (Vol. 102, No. 11))
Best known for her contemporary African American characters, Draper's latest novel is a searing work of historical fiction that imagines a 15-year-old African girl's journey through American slavery. In brutal specifics, Draper shows the inhumanity: Amari is systematically raped on the slave ship and on the plantation and a slave child is used as alligator bait by white teenagers. And she adds to the complex history in alternating chapters that flip between Amari and Polly, an indentured white servant on Amari's plantation. A few plot elements, such as Amari's chance meeting with Besa, are contrived. But Draper builds the explosive tension to the last chapter, and the sheer power of the story, balanced between the overwhelmingly brutal facts of slavery and Amari's ferocious survivor's spirit, will leave readers breathless, even as they consider the story's larger questions about the infinite costs of slavery and how to reconcile history. A moving author's note discusses the real places and events on which the story is based. Give this to teens who have read Julius Lester's Day of Tears (2005). Category: Books for Older Readers--Fiction. 2006, Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $16.95. Gr. 9-12. Starred Review
Teens Read Too Review--2007
This is not just another book about slavery. This is a book about something real and tangible. Ms. Draper's writing is so vivid that you can smell the rank odors beneath ship. You can feel the pain of being lashed with a whip. Your throat will constrict at the heart-wrenching pain of a mother and child being forced apart. You will also celebrate the strength and spirit of Amari and those she inspires.
School Library Journal and Booklist both starred reviewed this novel.