Rachel’s Letter-Essay #4: Trouble Don’t Last

I’m currently reading a 230 page book called Trouble Don’t Last, which has won the Scott O’Dell Award for historical fiction. The author, Shelley Pearsall, enjoys learning and teaching history, she has been involved in many unique historical jobs. I choose to read Trouble Don’t Last because I have yet to read an historical fiction book this year and the main character, Samuel, is no ordinary African American, he is a runaway slave. I was interested to read more about Samuel’s life.

This story is about Samuel, an eleven year old boy, who works for Master Hackler alongside Lily and Harrison. He’s used to the harsh punishments and orders, it’s the only thing he knows. Samuel was born a slave. He has accepted that this is life, until one night, things get interesting, Harrison is running away and wants to take Samuel with him. As they journey away, Samuel and Harrison encounter many challenges and people, not necessarily good people. Samuel is young, but he learns so much along the way, but are they lucky enough to make it out alive?

The main character was brave. He had to walk through deadly waters, he came face to face with a man who could be mistaken for a monster, he heard about the patrollers who find runaways and give them what they deserve, and the boy still managed to keep going, forgetting about the consequences. All he could think about and all he cared about, was freedom.

I like the way the author constantly brought up situations to keep the story entertaining. There’s not one point in the book I came across that the characters weren’t struggling or succeeding. It’s very easy for a story to fall flat and I think the author did a good job of keeping me engaged.

I was surprised when Harrison and Samuel didn’t get caught by Master Hackler. Even when Master Hackler came into the woods to find them. They were hiding. The master could’ve easily found them that day, but it miraculously started raining. The master gave up and walked away frustrated and angry. I couldn’t believe how lucky Harrison and Samuel were. Every second I thought Master Hackler would spot them, my heart would race. I was not just surprised, but really relieved.

This passage is important because it kept being repeated inside Samuel’s head. Being repeated so many times, it must mean something to Samuel.

“”They hunt people who run off from their masters. Human flesh and blood. Hunting you and me ain’t no different than trapping animals to them. I’ll fight ‘til I’m dead and gone…”” (p.66).

I chose this passage because those words scared Samuel. These words were the reason Samuel jumped at every creak or crunch. He was cautious and paranoid. I rate this book a 6/10 because it was interesting but not something I would recommend to my peers. I also think that the topic, slavery, just isn’t something I like to read about in general.


Rachel Horowitz

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About rcjockers

I am a middle-school language arts teacher in Connecticut. I like eating hot peppers from my garden, writing, and watching German soccer matches in the dark.

9 thoughts on “Rachel’s Letter-Essay #4: Trouble Don’t Last

  1. Rachel,
    This letter-essay contains all the requisite parts, but it lacks specificity. And for people who haven’t read the book, there are many questions, such as: where does this story take place? Always assume the reader knows less than you and give them the information you think they need. Also, letter-essays should not be written about books that are about 200 pages in length if you have not finished them.
    Mr. Jockers

  2. rachel,

    i really liked the idea of the book that you read, and how when you analyzed your passage of writing, you included how you interpreted the characters feelings. I would like to know where this is takes place, so maybe i can read a book about the place or time period. This book seems really interesting, thanks for sharing it!

    allie schuldt

  3. Dear Rachel,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about Trouble Don’t Last, it was really interesting. I personally love that topic about finding freedom and I liked the part where you related to that feeling in your letter essay. I also enjoyed reading your thoughts about the quoted passage you including, saying that it: “kept being repeated inside Samuel’s head… [so] it must mean something to Samuel.” Despite the quoted passage, you including no other quotes from the book. This would help explain and support your thoughts and let the reader (that’s us) follow your thought process and understand more about the book. Thanks for sharing. Trouble Don’t Last is definitely on my list of books to read next!


  4. Rachel,

    I really enjoyed your letter essay. I thought the fact that you chose that quote to expand on was really interesting. You said that slavery isn’t something you ever read about, but you then chose a very “hardcore” – to a certain extent – quote. For me, it shows how you weren’t aware of the severeness of slavery and this quote was one of the first times you saw the severity. You were able to acknowledge those words from the main character’s perspective, and that is very valuable when writing about books. The one thing I would say is to try to elaborate more. You didn’t expand on your thinking too much and that is the purpose of a letter essay but the overall essay was really well done!

    Isabel Petron

  5. Dear Rachel,

    I like how you didn’t give away the whole story, but maybe you could include more detail on the characters, setting, etc. The way you talked about this book made it seem really interesting, and I might have to read it as well.

    Thanks for Sharing,

  6. Dear Rachel,

    I really like how you wrote your letter essay. You didn’t give much away but at the same time I really got the point of the book. The one thing that I recommend is include more details so we as readers could understand a little more about the book. Otherwise I think you did a great job!

    Sophia Jortner

  7. Dear Rachel,

    As I was reading your letter essay there was many things I noticed. For example, I noticed how you were able to express your feelings as a reader. While reading I could imagine your reactions. That was really well done. You seemed to have connections to the characters as you read the novel. Yet, I still feel like your letter essay was missing key parts. For intense, you were missing detail. There were many parts where you could’ve added more to it; more reasoning. The main goal of a letter essay is to draw people into reading your book. I feel like you weren’t really into it, to be honest. I recommend that you read books that make you want to read. If you continuously read books you don’t like then you will start to hate books. Which isn’t good. But anyways, keep up the work!


    Claudia M.

  8. Rachel,
    I think that you did a good job giving us a gist of what the story is about. I like your vocabulary as well, it makes it sound more sophisticated. Your connections were good points a well.

  9. Dear Rachel

    Great Job on the letter-essay and keeping me as the reader engaged with your smooth transitions. I definitely agree with you on the fact that slavery wouldn’t be something I would care about reading but this book sounds good so I might look into it anyway. Your letter essay could be improved if you gave a bit more description about the Journey that Samuel took in the summary, like the specific challenges they face.


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