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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Dickie Erman’s historical fiction novel, The Adventures of Sunny Washington, wastes no words and spares no feelings regarding the attitudes and treatment of black people by whites. So many times, I shook my head in disbelief, beginning with the heartbreak of Sunny’s mother when she realizes her two young sons have been sold off by her master without her knowledge, after which she is sent packing, leaving little Sunny on the plantation. Eventually, the young adult Sunny decides to risk her life by running away and hooking up with two other young slaves on the run. Using the Underground Railroad to reach the relatively free state of Illinois, the three young people manage to elude slave catchers. When an influential black man convinces white leaders to offer black slaves autonomy on an island off Haiti, the trio separates, and a suspicious Sunny, with the help of Quakers, makes her way to Canada. Her choice proves to be the right one.
This story of the trio’s struggles constitutes the primary plot. But it’s the subplot about a good, Christian black slave, Thomas, falsely accused of raping a promiscuous white teenager that hits readers hardest. The injustice he endures in a court where the jury of 12 white men returns a guilty verdict because they are more concerned about explaining an innocent ruling that makes your skin crawl. While children are not the targeted readers, Dickie Erman’s writing style and information are suitable to and would rivet mature tweens. The Adventures of Sunny Washington is a quick, easy read with enough background information to interest but not bore a younger audience. The plot moves quickly, and the characters are relatable. Adults, on the other hand, in light of everyday current events, will wonder just how far society and white supremacists have come since the 1850s.