Robert Smalls Sails to Freedom

From the Series On My Own History

  • Interest Level: Grade 2 - Grade 4
  • Reading Level: Grade 3

Quickly and quietly, Robert Smalls headed the ship out of the Charleston Harbor. Across the wide river was the Northern Army and freedom for slaves like him. On Robert’s side of the river was the Southern Army and Robert’s master. Robert knew his master would never give him freedom. Now was his chance to escape. Robert steered the ship into the open water. He could see the nearby forts of the Southern Army and their cannons ready to fire. The Southern soldiers would capture Robert if they could. Could he sail across hidden by the darkness of night? Could he pass by in disguise?

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Interest Level Grade 2 - Grade 4
Reading Level Grade 3
Genre Social Studies
Category 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Narrative Nonfiction, Diverse Books: Race & Ethnicity, Diverse Books: Social Justice, Diversity
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Brand On My Own Books
Imprint Millbrook Press ™
Language English
Publication Date 2006-01-01
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS JNF025270, JNF018010, JNF057020
Dewey 973.8'092
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Guided Reading Level P
ATOS Reading Level 3.7
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 102740
Accelerated Reader® Points 0.5
Features Author/Illustrator note, Awards, Bibliography/further reading, Pronunciation guide, Reviewed, and Teaching Guides

Illustrator: Felicia Marshall

Felicia Marshall draws on her childhood experiences in rural Texas for her illustrations. Her most recent book, Beautiful Shades of Brown, was an NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book, a Eureka Honor Book, and won the Northern Lights Book Award.

Lerner eSource™ offers free digital teaching and learning resources, including Common Core State Standards (CCSS) teaching guides. These guides, created by classroom teachers, offer short lessons and writing exercises that give students specific instruction and practice using Common Core skills and strategies. Lerner eSource also provides additional resources including online activities, downloadable/printable graphic organizers, and additional educational materials that would also support Common Core instruction. Download, share, pin, print, and save as many of these free resources as you like!

On My Own History

With striking, full-page illustrations, real and fictionalized characters, and stories featuring events that really happened, these books capture readers’ interest and imagination. View available downloads →


  • California Collection, Winner, 2006


Children's Literature Network

“Newly competent readers are likely to thrill to this well told story of the Civil War hero, Robert Smalls. . . a valuable addition to a reading tutor’s collection as well as an excellent selection for a classroom. . .”
Children’s Literature Network

MultiCultural Review

“Offers full-page color illustrations and provides believable text that captures the story of the slave boy who grew up to be a free man.”
MultiCultural Review

The Horn Book Guide

“Brown makes this an exciting, well-told story that may spark readers to search for more information.”
The Horn Book Guide