GALVESTON — Book Seven in Melodie A. Cuate’s award-winning “Mr. Barrington’s Mysterious Trunk” children’s series brings its characters — and readers — back to Galveston’s past just before Juneteenth.
The book series follows young protagonists Nick, Jackie and Hannah as they are magically transported back into the past of Texas’ various historic moments by way of their history teacher’s, Mr. Barrington’s, time-traveling chest.
In the latest installment, “Journey to Galveston,” the group is sent back to 1865 Galveston, where Jackie is mistaken for an escaped slave and kidnapped by plantation owners. Nick and Hannah must then venture throughout the island in search of their friend with the aid of two Civil War-era twins as they witness the appalling and brutal realities of slavery along the way.
“Juneteenth is mentioned in our textbooks, but I wanted my readers to learn more about it through the experiences of my young characters in ‘Journey to Galveston,’” Cuate said. “It’s a major event in Texas history that should be remembered and celebrated.”
The history of Juneteenth began in Galveston when Union Gen. Gordon Granger and 2,000 of his troops arrived on the island and declared on June 19, 1865, that all slaves were free. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued more than two years earlier, many Confederate states — Texas included — ignored the orders of the U.S. president.
Previous books in the series recaptured the historic moments of the Alamo, Battle of San Jacinto, Battle of Gonzalez and Plum Creek, among others.
“I expand on topics covered in fourth- and seventh-grade Texas history,” Cuate said. “Initially, when I started writing my first novel, ‘Journey to the Alamo,’ I hadn’t planned on a series of books. I was focused on one short story for my fourth-grade class.
“The ‘Journey’ books will always be about Texas,” said Cuate. “Our history is like no other, layered with plenty of action and adventure. I’m hoping to hit another region of Texas with my next story.”
Currently, Cuate is working on a new book series centered on American history that will be written for reading levels eighth grade and up.
This past semester was Cuate’s 24th and final year as a fourth-grade teacher at Canterbury Elementary School. She is now the education officer at the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg.