Martha Plans a Visit to Cortelyou Road

Hello everyone,

This is a friendly reminder. Please mark your calendars. On Saturday, February 24, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. I will be doing a conversation/reading from Martha and the Slave Catchers. It is being held at the Brooklyn Public Library, Cortelyou Road Branch. For you New Yorkers, just take the Q train to Cortelyou Road, turn left when you exit the station, and walk two-and-a-half short blocks to the library. Below is the flier the library designed with its street and web addresses on it.


Martha Plans a Visit to Cortelyou Road

Hello everyone,

Please mark your calendars. On Saturday, February 24, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. I will be doing a conversation/reading from Martha and the Slave Catchers. It is being held at the Brooklyn Public Library, Cortelyou Road Branch. For you New Yorkers, just take the Q train to Cortelyou Road, turn left when you exit the station, and walk two-and-a-half short blocks to the library. Below is the flier the library designed with its street and web addresses on it.


A Reflection on Off-Shore Drilling

I am an avid embroiderer. I love trying out all sorts of needlework, taking classes, and reading about history and technique. Back in the 1970s, I created a group of political posters as needlepoint pieces. Little did I know that one of my 1978 designs, Greetings from Long Island, would become super relevant forty years later. I created this design as a reaction to a newspaper article claiming that there were plans for off-shore drilling off Long Island, New York. The impact it would have on our beautiful beaches and communities inspired me to pick up my needle and yarn to express my concerns. Greetings from Long Island measures 10 inches by 13 inches. It was worked on 18 mesh canvas with DMC floss, perle cotton, and rayon. It hangs in my workroom along with other political posters I’ve designed and stitched with a 30 year gap in time to develop my work as a historian.

Welcome to Long Island

My Conversation with Catherine Franklin

Hello to all,

Catherine Franklin, the educator who designed the Study Guide for Martha and the Slave Catchers, and I had a conversation about the book, its origins, and its uses in the Middle Grade classroom. It has been posted on the Seven Stories Press website under “blogs.” Here is the link: I hope you enjoy it!

Martha and the Slave Catchers is Published

Martha and the Slave Catchers has finally made her debut, and she is very beautiful. As you can see from the book cover image, the original colors have been darkened to a red-orange which really pop. Below are some very positive reviews. Also, please be sure to check out “The Facts Behind Martha and the Slave Catchers” on my website and the Study Guide on the Seven Stories Press site. Catherine Franklin did a wonderful job with the study guide, and I think it will offer many ideas for teachers who might like to use the book and parents who want to take their children deeper into the real world of slavery and the antislavery movement.

The book is available through many on-line sellers and in a number of libraries. Please recommend it to your local library and book store. With many thanks.

Excerpts from Reviews of Martha and the Slave Catchers:

Kirkus Reviews:

“Alonso pens an informative, easy-to-follow adventure story that nevertheless tackles the persistent issues arising from antebellum America, including race and skin color, situational ethics and their devastating consequences, and allyship and using privilege for justice. A tense adventure about interracial adoption that gets to the heart of what’s most important: love.”

Donald Peebles, in School Library Journal:

“Alonso and Zunon have both done a masterful job bringing America’s pre-Civil War years to the page. Readers will sit in suspense as Martha risks her life in the Underground Railroad network. . . The loose ends in this slave narrative leave the door open to a sequel. VERDICT: Fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Seeds of America” series will want to pick this up.”

Melanie Dulaney, on Goodreads:

“Author Harriet Alonso writes a gripping piece of historical fiction from a slightly different perspective as other Underground Railroad themed books . . . an excellent choice for students who are interested in Civil Rights, the Civil War, the abolitionist movement, the Underground Railroad and key figures in that historic period. The characters are vivid and the action is fast-paced. I would highly recommend this book to readers in the 5th-8th grade.”

From the Mixed-Up Files . . . of Middle Grade Authors:

“Alonso combines fiction and historical fact to weave a suspenseful story of courage, hope and self-discovery in the aftermath of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, while illuminating the bravery of abolitionists who fought against slavery.”

Elisa Carbone, author of Stealing Freedom:

“The complexities of mid-1800s slave laws and racial attitudes are captured within the pages of a riveting adventure story. The fast-paced plot, filled with twists and surprises, will engage readers and spark discussion of these important issues. Alonso breathes life into the sights, sounds, and emotions of travel on the Underground Railroad.”

Margaret Meacham, author of Oyster Moon

“Harriet Alonso’s gripping tale is steeped in period detail. . . Readers will come away with a clearer understanding of the horrors of slavery, and a greater appreciation for the bravery of those who fought against it. . . Anyone who loves an exciting read and likes learning a bit of history on the way will love this book.”

Jerdine Nolen, author of Eliza’s Freedom Road

“With the backdrop of the horrors of a time in turmoil, through an unjust and cruel system, I learned more about the capacity and self-discovery of the human heart. This novel is a true hero’s journey—about love, bravery, the constancy of family, loss, history, and hope. This is a story about a time and the people who lived through those times we all need to read and know.”

Virginia Frances Schwartz, author of If I Just Had Two Wings

“Middle graders will love the spunk of Martha, the heroine of this novel. . . Rooted in abolitionist history, full of page-turning suspense, mystery, and inner conflict, Martha and the Slave Catchers depicts the disastrous aftermath of the passing of the 1850’s Fugitive Slave Act.

Happy reading!

A Special Honor

I’m very excited to share with you the news that I have been awarded the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Peace History Society. I was presented with this honor on October 21 during the “Muted Voices” conference at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. I’ve attached an article written by past President of the organization, Virginia S. Williams, which gives a background of the organization. The article was written in 2009. Since then, the organization and its members have accomplished a great deal. For more information on PHS and more recent activities, go to And here is a photo of the plaque presented to me:

PHS award
The Peace History Society: An Affiliate of the AHA since 1963

Virginia S. Williams, November 2009

During the December 1963 annual meeting of the American Historical Association, a group of historians moved by the assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy and the beginnings of the Indochina War, decided to commit more effort and attention towards the study of peace. The AHA gathering was held in Philadelphia that year, and 50 historians interested in peace research attended a meeting at the Friends Meeting House, chaired by Merle Curti, one of the best-known historians of the time and a past president of the AHA. This group decided to form a special conference group within the AHA and to hold a joint session at the AHA meeting the following year. A continuing committee issued a call to join its efforts “to encourage the kind of research on the history of war, peace, violence and conflict that can clarify the causes of international peace and difficulties in creating it.”

These efforts resulted, in 1964, in the creation of the Conference on Peace Research in History, with Charles Barker of Johns Hopkins University as its first president. The organization kept the name Conference on Peace Research in History until 1994, when members chose to rename the organization the Peace History Society (PHS).

For more than four decades, PHS has prided itself on having a diverse membership. Although mostly composed of historians, PHS has attracted other scholars of international and military affairs, transnational institutions, nonviolence, movements for peace and social justice, scholars of religion, peace activists, and members of the general public. They have come not only from North America, but also from around the world. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the PHS, panels at PHS conferences have approached topics from many different angles. PHS members have been concerned with making peace research relevant to scholarly disciplines, policy-makers, and their own societies.

The Peace History Society has regularly sponsored panels at the meetings of the AHA, the Organization of American Historians, the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, the International Peace Research Association, and the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians. It also has a long history of cosponsoring conferences and events with other organizations. In 2008, PHS co-hosted a conference with Historians Against the War entitled “War and Its Discontents: Understanding Iraq and the U.S. Empire.” Besides serving as an affiliate of the AHA, PHS maintains nongovernmental organization status at the United Nations. PHS is also affiliated with H-Peace, an international electronic network that seeks to broaden understanding about historical and contemporary peace, justice, and disarmament concerns.

In addition, PHS has sponsored major conferences of its own on a biennial basis. The themes of the last two have been “Peace Activism and Scholarship: Historical Perspectives of Social, Economic, and Political Change” and “Historical Perspectives on Engendering War, Peace and Justice.” In October 2009, Winthrop University will host the latest PHS conference, with the theme, “Toward a Peaceful World: Historical Approaches to Creating Cultures of Peace.” Staughton Lynd, the longtime scholar and activist, will give the keynote address.

PHS has been particularly active in encouraging collective research and writing projects. An early example was The Garland Library of War and Peace, edited by Blanche Wiesen Cook, Sandi Cooper, and Charles Chatfield (New York, 1972–1977). Others include Berenice Carroll, Clinton Fink, and Jane Mohraz’s Peace and War: A Guide to Bibliographies (Santa Barbara, Calif., 1983); Charles DeBenedetti’s Peace Heroes in Twentieth Century America (Bloomington, 1986); and Melvin Small and William Hoover’s Give Peace a Chance: Exploring the Vietnam Antiwar Movement (Syracuse, 1992). Furthermore, individual members of PHS have produced a vast body of scholarly work. In recognition of the prolific scholarship in peace history, PHS awards the Charles DeBenedetti Prize for an outstanding article in peace history and the Scott Bills Memorial Prize for an outstanding first book or dissertation in this field. Both of these awards are named for distinguished peace historians and past presidents of PHS. In 2007, PHS inaugurated the Lifetime Achievement Award, and presented it to Charles Chatfield, one of the pioneering peace historians.

Since 1972, the PHS has co-published Peace & Change: A Journal of Peace Research, which remains the major journal in the field with the Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA). PHS co-owns the journal with its publisher, Wiley-Blackwell, and Peace & Change reaches 2,232 libraries globally through the Wiley-Blackwell consortia sales program. Most recently, Peace & Change published a guest-edited issue on the Iraq War (37:2, July 2009). Additionally, PHS members receive news updates through a quarterly newsletter, PHS News.


Martha on the SCBWI Book Stop

Hello everyone,


From October 16 through November 27, you can learn more about Martha and the Slave Catchers and a whole mess of other wonderful children’s books at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Book Stop event. Just go to and then click on Traditionally Published. You will see the book cover in the first row with a link to the book’s page.

Oh, just one other thing. To give the printer more time, the publication date has been moved up two weeks to November 21. But be sure, Martha and Jake are on their way!

One Month Until “Martha Arrives”

Just one short month until Martha and the Slave Catchers is published. Remember, though, if you are curious about the historical facts behind the novel, just go to the top of this webpage and click on “Martha and the Slave Catchers.”

Let’s start with the final installment of Chapter 1. For those of you new to the blog, the first installment appears in the July blog post. We left off where an injured and confused Martha cannot remember exactly who she is, where she is, or anything much about her past. She does remember her name and when she sees an envelope with it on the small table next to her, she picks it up and begins reading. In the August blog post, the letter results in questions crowding Martha’s brain. She could picture her mama and her friend, Becky. And when we left her in September, she was beginning to remember someone called Caleb. We continue . . .

Yes, of course. Becky, her best friend. She knew in her heart that she could rely upon her. Remembering Becky also brought back Caleb. Martha’s mind drifted to the sense of him holding her and kissing her softly, but she forced her eyes to focus once again on her papa’s words, words that were helping her mind to wake up. It was as if he was right there in the room with her, holding her hands, and urging her to come back to life.

The day you left, C_____ had a most terrible confrontation with his father. He discovered that it was he who revealed our secret, all for a monetary reward. C_____ says he will never be able to forgive him. He packed his possessions, left home, and now stays in our attic room. It is a great comfort to have him at my side in the woodshop. Besides, there is so much work to do that I would flounder without him. He is very regretful, dear daughter, of his treatment of you. But I think whatever passed between you will have to be settled once you return home. I sense from him that all will work itself out once you see each other and speak deeply.

Martha ran her finger across the coded C_____ as if by doing so she could transport Caleb to her side. She smiled as she felt in her pocket for the handkerchief with the embroidered red rose he had given her. Rubbing it against her cheek brought him closer, but she had no idea what they had quarreled about.

Martha drew in a deep breath. The oppressive heat in the room added to her light headedness. Sweat trickling down her neck dampened the shirt she was wearing. She ran her hand under the collar to loosen it. Why did she have on a boy’s shirt? She gazed down at her legs. And boys’ pants? She instinctively reached for one of her long plaits that she liked to twirl around her finger. Nothing. Frantically, she dropped the letter and grabbed both sides of her head feeling for her cherished hair. Who would be so cruel as to cut it off? Could her papa tell her? She picked up the letter once again and anxiously looked for an answer.

You have been a brave and honest girl, my lovely one, and I pledge that I will do everything possible to bring you both home very soon. In the meantime, you must do all in your power to protect yourself and not to fret about us. I will anxiously await news from you, and I will send news back. Our friends will see to that.

As always, I remain your loving father.

Her papa said nothing more and apparently knew little of what had happened to her since she had left home. For now, she was on her own and desperate to pull her memories together, regain her equilibrium, and find out where she was and what had become of her brother. She folded the letter, kissed it, replaced it in its envelope, and put it into her pocket. Then exhaustion overtook her. Involuntarily, she leaned her head against the back of the sofa and closed her eyes. As she relaxed, scenes of her life in the small town of Liberty Falls, Connecticut, flooded her mind. And with them came memories of Jake.

This is a picture of me, the author. In the background, as a screen saver, is a photo of my grandson when he was a young child. Just so you know who’s who. HarrietAlonso2017

Actually, what I want to talk about today is how the author of a book has to let go of that work. When I began Martha and the Slave Catchers, it was just a tiny kernel in my mind that I kept chewing on and spitting out. From the time I started playing with the idea of writing a novel for children until the day I read the page proofs, a good five years had passed. For much of that time, Martha and Jake and the entire cast of characters belonged to me. Yes, I shared parts of it with my husband, my friend Catherine, my writing group, and the faculty and students in my classes at the Gotham Writers Workshop, but the story belonged to me, and me alone.

But once I signed on with my agent, Marie Brown, and with the folks at Seven Stories Press, and with Liz Zunon, the illustrator, the story-turned-book started to slip out of my hands and become a collaborative project. And once that happened, I had to begin letting go of my ownership of it.

I learned about letting go soon after my second book, Peace as a Women’s Issue, was published in 1993. I was then teaching at Fitchburg State College (now University) in Massachusetts and decided to have a book party celebrating that book and my previous book, The Women’s Peace Union and the Outlawry of War, 1921-1942 which had appeared in 1989 but without a celebration. During the party, one of my students came up to me with a copy of the book and said, “Will you sign my book?” My first reaction (unspoken of course) was, “That’s my book, not yours.” It was then that I realized that I was actually participating in the rite of letting go of the book and sending it on its way. Since that time, I usually have some sort of celebration where I let the book go, either a party or a public talk or something like that. I picture it in my mind as my actually handing the book over to readers.

With Martha, that moment came when I saw Liz Zunon’s name on the book cover design and then the announcement of her participation on her twitter feed and then on her website. The book was no longer just mine. Next month when it is released, the book will be “out there” for any interested person to grab a hold of. I hope that person is YOU. Martha and the Slave Catchers is already available for pre-ordering on many on-line book store sites. Or you can ask your local book store to carry it. Come and join our community ownership of Martha and Jake’s story.

Until November 7, when Seven Stories/Triangle Square Books for Young Readers releases Martha and the Slave Catchers. . . .