SERIES THURSDAY: Long Road to Freedom/Race to the South Pole by Kate Messner


Ranger is a time-traveling golden retriever with search-and-rescue training. In this adventure, he goes to a Maryland plantation during the days of American slavery, where he meets a young girl named Sarah. When she learns that the owner has plans to sell her little brother, Jesse, to a plantation in the Deep South, it means they could be separated forever. Sarah takes their future into her own hands and decides there's only one way to run -- north.


Ranger is such an appealing hero, especially since he doesn't know he is one.  As a dog, all he knows is that when his time traveling first aid kit hums, its time to go help someone.  Messner has created an appealing historical fiction series that draws kids in with it's time traveling dog as the main character.  Students at my school really like this series.  This series along with Lauren Tarshis's I Survived series are encouraging students to read historical fiction who would otherwise never pick it up because history is 'boring'.  But in this volume of the series, history is definitely not boring as Ranger sets off to help a young slave girl and her brother escape servitude.  There is plenty of excitement as Sarah and her brother try to work their way north to Philadelphia only to discover that Pennsylvania may not be far enough.  Along the way Ranger helps them avoid wolves and slave catchers.  The book contains plenty of excitement and tension while still conveying the drive for freedom that lead so many to accept the risks involved.  The book is child appropriate while still showing the value of freedom.  As always, Messner includes end notes that explain where she got her facts and which parts of the story are real.  I love reading these notes and hearing about the research that Messner does to make her stories feel so real.  A great series for young dog or history lovers that I hope will continue for a while.


Ranger, the time-traveling golden retriever with search-and-rescue training, joins an early twentieth-century expedition journeying from New Zealand to Antarctica. He befriends Jack Nin, the stowaway turned cabin boy of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's ship. They're racing against a rival explorer to reach the South Pole, but with unstable ice, killer whales, and raging blizzards, the journey turns into a race against time... and a struggle to stay alive.


Once again, Ranger sets off through time to help a young person in trouble.  He arrives in time to save Jack Nin from drowning.  As Ranger travels with Jack and the rest of Captain Scott's crew, he has not idea that he will see and experience things that few ever do, penguins, killer whales, nasty blizzards, and deep crevasses.  But through it all Ranger travels by Jack's side wondering when he'll get to go home.  I enjoyed traveling with Ranger and Jack as Jack learns for the first time just what being an adventurer means.  For a long time he thinks that fame and fortune is what it's all about, but slowly he learns that maybe adventure isn't quite as much fun as he has always thought.  Messner has done a great job of using details from accounts taken from some of those who actually traveled with Scott to create a believable story with lots of exciting details.  Another fun read in an appealing series.


  1. I like these, but I would enjoy seeing some more unusual bits of history. These are a great option for some of my struggling 6th graders.

    1. Unusual bits of history would be a great idea. The next one takes a look at Iceland volcanic history which excites me because it isn't a time and place commonly talked about.


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