Written by Monica S. Baker
Freestyle may appeal to readers on the sixth grade reading level who enjoy historical fiction, especially the topic of slavery. This novel presents the story of thirteen-year-old Mitch, a modern-day kid who is fascinated by obituaries, and his fantastical dreams which occur in the 1800s.
During his nights, Mitch comes face-to-face with the Pirate Patty Cannon, a notorious kidnapper and murderer. The action is sustained as he works to evade her cunning games, escape her henchman and release a tortured slave boy. Meanwhile, Mitch’s days are filled with plenty of challenges, including concerns for his father who is a combat soldier, being shackled to a swim team named “Ladybugs” and a bratty little sister. Mitch discovers that he can solve his problems through historical research and prayer.
The chapters alternate irregularly between the modern world and the historical setting of Mitch’s dreams. In an attempt to ground the reader in the setting, background graphics are included on each chapter header page; some readers may find these repetitive graphics distracting. Because Freestyle includes a significant amount of dialog, it could be used as a read aloud or for development of a reader’s theater.
Although the sentence length and majority of the vocabulary in Freestyle could be read by younger students, parents should be aware that the conclusion includes the word “bastard” and makes reference to a sexual relationship between a slave and her owner. As a result of the violent nature of some scenes and the content, this book would fit best on a sixth grade or higher reading list.