A Picture of Freedom: The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl, Belmont Plantation, Virginia 1859 (Dear America Series) by Patricia McKissack.
Clotee is an orphan living on the plantation of “Mas’ Henley” and “Miz Lilly.” Her owners have put her to work fanning Miz Lilly and her young son William during tutoring sessions. William may not be keen to learn, but Clotee is. She has learned to read while looking over the boy’s shoulder and eventually she teaches herself how to write. She practices her newfound skills by writing in a makeshift, secret diary, which is found by William’s new tutor. Luckily, he turns out to be an abolitionist. Through his work, Clotee helps some of her friends escape to the North, but she herself chooses to stay behind on the plantation as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Clotee is such a vibrant, fully rounded character that it is almost painful to think of her left on the plantation while her friends and fellow slaves go to freedom. McKissack brings Clotee alive through touching and sobering details of slave life, told in such a matter-of-fact way that their often brutal nature is made abundantly clear. However, this is in no way a depressing book. In fact, it is an inspiring look at a young girl coming of age in terrible circumstances who manages to live life to the fullest.