A New Beginning: My Journey with Addy

Published in 2014; author Denise Lewis Patrick; illustrators Julie Kolesova and Michael Dwornik; author photo by Fran Baltzer Photo

"My Journey" books

These are choose-your-own adventure books written from a first person perspective. Just for ease, I'm going to always pick the first option when I come them, but I'll try to mention the other possible endings. Since the reader is meant to insert herself into the story, the main character (a modern-day pre-teen) isn't named. Since it would sound to weird to me to summarize the story as, "and then (Historical Characters) and I saw a..." I will use the author's first name, in this case, Denise.


Denise is frustrated. Her mother is always gone at work or school, and her dad is working in another state so he's only home once in a while. Consequently, her grandparents have moved in to help with Denise and her younger brother. She loves her grandparents, but it's not the same as having her parents. It's so hard for her to focus on things that seem unimportant, like history--evidenced by how she just failed a social studies test. Denise's grandfather tries to help her see that history is about the people who came before her, not just memorizing dates. He shows her a coin from 1864. It's from the first paycheck a distant relative got as a soldier in the Civil War. His mother kept it to remember him and help her look forward to when he could return home and the war would be over. Later in the evening, Denise is studying the coin. She rubs the date imprinted on it and suddenly feels dizzy...

Denise is shocked to find herself standing on a pier on a riverbank. Everything looks old-fashioned. She looks at the coin in her hand and rubs the date again. It works; she's back in her bedroom. But it's not long before curiosity gets the better of her, and she rubs the date to transport herself back to the pier. As she takes in her surroundings, trying to understand what's happening, a girl her age introduces herself as Addy Walker, welcoming Denise to freedom (Denise is explicitly black in this narrative) and inviting her to an event at the church, which hosts a freedmen's society. Denise is confused. Freedom? She's always been free. Denise quickly realizes that the coin must have taken to when and where it was minted: 1864 in Philadelphia (okay, I'm guessing on where it was minted, but it's a fairly safe assumption: the Denver mint didn't start operating until 1906, the Philadelphia mint started in the 1790s, and San Francisco mint was mostly doing gold coins then, plus it was far away). Denise follows Addy, who clearly knows her way around. She's fascinated by all the wares being sold in the shops. Addy points ahead to a group of soldiers preparing to leave for war.

First choice: join the farewell to the soldiers or explore a store window

As Denise watches the men march past, she notices some of the crowd is crying, not cheering. It hits her that these men are people's sons, husbands, brothers, and fathers. Addy mentions that her own brother wanted to be a soldier. She's separated from him, and hopes he's been able to follow his dream. Then Addy shifts tones, and says it's time to head to the church (which is same way the other option ends up). Addy opens up more about her family on the way, about how her father and brother were sold and how she and her mother had to leave her baby sister behind with relatives when they escaped slavery. Denise talks about her own family vaguely enough to fit with Addy's assumption that she's also an escaped slave. Denise is welcomed warmly at the church, where she spies a flyer that confirms it's November 1864. When Addy's mother learns that Denise is alone, she insists that she stay with the Walkers. Outside the church, a gruff white man stops them, demanding to see proof that they're free, rather than escaped slaves.

Next choice: run or let Addy try to explain

The girls bolt, Addy leading Denise through a small hole in a fence. The man can't fit through it. They run back to the church, and Addy's mother takes them home. Denise spends the evening and the next morning silently marveling at how little Addy and her mother have compared to her family in modern times, but how much more it must seem to them as recently-escaped slaves. Soon it's time for school. Addy's actually excited to go, but Denise reminds herself that Addy was only recently got the opportunity to receive an education. She doesn't take it for granted. At the school, Denise quickly notices that there no white or Hispanic or Asian students; it's completely segregated. Soon after the class starts, the students break into reading groups. Since it's illegal to teach slaves to read and write in the South, Addy assumes that reading aloud will be difficult at best for Denise. She asks Denise if she wants to take a turn with the book.

Next choice: read or decline

Careful to not show off, Denise reads slowly but competently. Addy is impressed, and Denise says that she learned to read before reaching Philadelphia. Rather than feeling overshadowed, Addy is thrilled that she can have Denise for a study partner. As the school day progresses, Denise continues to be impressed by Addy's determination to continue learning and her refusal to be discouraged by any difficulty. She wants to do something nice for Addy.

Next choice: find a way to make a book for Addy (Denise can't very well spend her coin; she won't be able to get back to modern times) or help Addy write a letter to a freedmen's camp to ask if there's any word about Addy's father or brother

During recess, the teacher (who's in on the plan) asks Denise to stay in so she can get information to enroll her in school. The teacher supplies Denise with some heavy paper (left over gift wrap) and helps her cut several pages to size. Denise writes a short story about finding friendship and the freedom it gives, ending with a hopeful paragraph about Addy's whole family joining her in freedom and a thank you to Addy for teaching Denise the value of education. The teacher suggests asking Addy's mother for a needle and thread to bind the book. After school, Addy's mother and her employer are happy to give Denise a needle and thread and a bit of ribbon to complete the book (Addy is delivering dresses). As Denise puts the finishing touches on her illustration, she starts to feel homesick. She's suddenly so grateful for her family--even if they're not quite under the same roof, the situation is temporary with a set end date, and she knows her family is safe, and she can talk to them often. Denise gives Addy the book when Addy returns, thanking her for teaching her so much. She explains that her family is nearby and she has to leave to reunite with them. Addy thanks Denise for the book and their time together, and Denise returns to the present.

About Addy's Time

While slavery was outlawed in Pennsylvania and the rest of the North, segregation was still very much legal. Various groups like freedmen societies and the Quaker Aid Society were on hand to help newly freed slaves navigate a world in which they couldn't enjoy full freedom. The Quaker Aid Society even founded the Institute for Colored Youth, the first high school for black students. Started in 1837, its primary goal was to train African American students to be teachers themselves, so more freed slaves could have access to quality education.


Dedicated to Yolande, the author's sister.

Just recently, I've noticed people writing "granduncle" as one word. I'm used to seeing it as two words: "grand uncle." I keep reading it being pronounced gran-dun-cle.

No! Don't polish your coin collection! It can ruin the finish and decrease their value.

Most of these books only transport the protagonist in time, not place (or least not very far in place; just a few miles). This one takes Denise from Tennessee to Pennsylvania.

I purposely planned this review to be on June 19: Emancipation Day.

Some of the endings are online-only. So, these aren't good books to take anywhere without an internet connection.

Some other possible endings: seeing the different ways people react to freedom prompts Denise to wonder about her relative and consequently her immediate family, who she misses and wants to return home to; in one of those endings Denise's mother return home just in time for her father's Skype call; another has her talking with her grandfather about coin's original owner; attending a meeting with the Quaker Aid Society helps Denise feel grateful for what she has and shows her how people can work together to make things better; making a square for a large quilt helps give Denise a sense of community; talking with Addy and other freed slaves about how they don't always know where their biological family is, and how they readily accept people as honorary members of their family gets Denise thinking about important her family is to her; helping make items to auction off for a benefit to help escaped slaves (the quilt was another) gives Denise perspective on her own difficulties and how it's better to work to improve a situation rather just complain about it.

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