Danny and Kenna are watching TV at Danny’s grandma’s house when a storm knocks out the power. They’re left with nothing to do but listen to another one of his grandma’s “when-I-was-a-kid” stories. But this doesn’t turn out to be an ordinary story for the two kids — or for you! Danny and Kenna thought that they had learned all about Harriet Tubman in school. But the two kids quickly learn that there is a lot more to this amazing American heroine’s story as they travel with Harriet Tubman on a secret mission for the Union Army. You’ll need to help Danny and Kenna steer their way through mazes, find hidden clues, and solve puzzles. You can take the additional challenge of managing Danny and Kenna’s mission budget with its “Beat the Budget” decisions. Finally, you’ll need to help Danny and Kenna decide which of three paths they should take to finish this story. The book’s colorful illustrations, true historical backstory, and 20+ interactive challenges are hard to put down and great to share with friends.
Targeted Age Group:: 8-12
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
When I ran book clubs for middle grade students, I saw how much they loved the interactive games and experiences that we added to books that we read. This was particularly helpful for reluctant readers or kids who felt reading was "boring" compared to video games. I wanted to see if I could get kids excited about reading and create an awareness of important historical decisions by using interactive elements to create a more immersive experience.
Pop! Bang! Phissst! The lightening cracked, and the windows rattled. Danny and Kenna stared at the blackened TV screen. Sudden coolness and the smell of summer rain rushed into the living room.
"Dang! What are we gonna do now? Just when we were gettin’ to the good part of the show,” Danny groused. “Stinkin’ storm. I wonder how long the power’s going to be off this time. Old, old, old… Everything around this place is old and broken down.” He stamped his foot and rocked backward on the carpet.
"It’s bad enough that I get dumped here every day after school. Bet even my mom knows there’s nothing to do. Heh! Didn’t you even hear her say, ‘Listen up, you might learn something.’ Yeah, learn how to fiddle with some old three-channel, no-cable, fuzz-screened TV is about all we’re gonna learn today.”
"Yeah, uh, it is kind of a bummer to have the power go out just when the action started. What do you think happens next?” Kenna wondered as she stared at Danny’s pained face. She spun her head and peeked at Danny’s grandmother who was reading in a nearby chair.
"Yes, sometimes it rains when you don’t expect it. And sometimes you don’t know what’s going to happen next, do you?” Danny’s Grandma’s voice crackled from behind them. “A lot of the time, you only get half the story. Like the story my grandpa told me when I was about your age.”
"Not another Gramma story,” Danny whispered to his friend, Kenna, as he rolled his eyes without glancing back at his grandmother. “I’m gonna try to turn her off like her old TV.”
"Oh, yes, in fact, the last time he told it was on a rainy day like this. It wasn’t an ordinary story either. It was about an adventure with General Tubman. And once my grandpa started telling it, he just couldn’t stop.”
"Huh? What ‘General Tubman’? What are you talkin’ about?” Danny’s ears perked up. He raised an eyebrow, twisting his mouth between a wisecrack and a question. He wasn’t in the mood for one of his grandmother’s stories, but the name of the famous runaway slave had caught his attention.
Kenna had gone home with Danny after school as she did on most afternoons. Usually, the kids would hang out at his grandma’s house until Kenna’s mother finished work. Kenna looked forward to the warm, homey kitchen-like smell each time she stepped into Danny’s grandma’s house. She had only met her own grandmother twice, and her mother was too exhausted after work to share more than a “be careful” or two when Kenna helped her heat up a quick dinner.
Before Danny could open his mouth, Kenna piped up, hoping to steer the conversation in a less snarky direction and to lure the buried details out of his grandmother. “Yeah, Mrs. Ashton, we learned all about Harriet Tubman in social studies class. But, you know, she wasn’t a general. No, she was just a famous runaway slave who started the Underground Railroad. And it wasn’t actually a real railroad with trains and all. It was a route with a bunch of people working together to hide slaves in their houses and basements during the Civil War. Harriet Tubman was the one who led thousands of slaves to freedom on this so-called Underground Railroad.” Kenna finished with a pleased smile. Danny’s Grandma seemed to be listening very carefully. Danny hadn’t interrupted even once.
Grandma Ashton put down her book and peered over the top of her glasses. “Well, like I said, sounds like you got yourselves half the story. But you still might be missing the best part. Of course, you learned that Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery and led other slaves to freedom. That’s all true. And you heard something about the Underground Railroad. But Harriet Tubman didn’t actually start that Underground Railroad herself. No, she was just one of its most famous ‘conductors.’ She didn’t smuggle thousands of slaves to the North either. No, it was probably closer to seventy or maybe one hundred slaves that she really led up North by herself. What I bet you also didn’t know is that one of those slaves who Harriet Tubman helped was Danny’s great-great-grandfather. He’s the one who told me the story about how Harriet became General Tubman.
"That’s the other half of the story that you didn’t hear about in school. And, like I said, when I was about your age, my grandpa told me this story. It’s a real on-the-ground story…not the teacher-told-you-for-the-test type of story that you get in class or out of some textbook. I first heard this story a long, long time ago, but I still remember that it went something like this…”
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Jeffrey Bensam is an author and storyteller who creates (and lives) hands-on, multicultural adventures. After he failed to become the “Bagel King of Bangladesh,” he graduated from Dartmouth College, University of California, Berkeley, and UCLA and spent the first two decades of his career helping international publishers bring their programs to audiences across the Asia-Pacific region. During the past ten years, Jeffrey has produced more than 50 programs covering history, world cultures, and STEAM topics for children from ages 5 to 15. He lives with his wife and son in Shanghai, China where he has entertained thousands of families with his kids story podcasts.