Look to the Hills Discussion Guide
- Grades: 6–8
About this book
To the Discussion Leader
Coretta Scott King Award winner Patricia McKissack brings to the Dear America books a unique picture of slavery in France and America in the 1760s. Lozette Moreau is bought as a companion for Marie-Louise, the daughter of the Marquis de Boyer. Zettie is educated, bright, well versed in social etiquette, but she is a slave nonetheless.
Played out in front of a backdrop of the French and Indian War with the distant drum of the American Revolution getting stronger, Look to the Hills: The Diary of Lozette Moreau, New York Colony, 1763, is about Zettie's trip to America — her reactions to Indians, trappers, indentured slaves, and above all, her constant yearning for freedom.
Zettie's story was inspired by Patricia McKissack's travels to Aix-en-Provence, France. McKissack says, "As our tour guide showed us through several large homes, she explained the French system of 'companions.' These were young girls who grew up as servants of noblemen's daughters. Some companions were indentured. Some were slaves. Some were white and some were Africans or mulattos. By the time I had finished the tour, Zettie and Marie-Louise had taken shape as characters."
For as long as she can remember, twelve-year-old Lozette "Zettie" Moreau, has been a companion ("that's just a fancy word for slave,") to eighteen-year-old Marie-Louise "Ree" Boyer, the daughter of a French aristocrat. Now everything has changed. It is January of 1763. Ree's father has died, her eldest brother Jacques, a soldier stationed in New France is missing, and her other brother Pierre has squandered the family's fortune. He is forced to sell his family's house, furniture, and slaves to pay off his debts. In addition, Pierre arranges a marriage between Ree and an unpleasant, middle-aged banker. Zettie will become his property, but the girls manage to escape. Ree learns that her brother Jacques is alive, and she makes plans to travel to America. Zettie is overwhelmed. "One day I was helping Marie-Louise dress for a ball, and the next day I am bound for a distant land. I feel like I'm riding a horse without any reins."
Ree and Zettie arrive in New France, now under control of the British, and make their way to Fort Niagara. They meet trappers, Indians, and soldiers. Zettie becomes friends with Lemuel, a drummer in the British army, Sally, an indentured servant girl, and Sam, an African slave who longs to return home. Zettie soon finds that she is lacking in useful skills such as cooking and sewing, but she is able to earn her way by keeping records for the fort manager and writing letters for the soldiers there.
Zettie helps Sam run away, but she worries that he will not make it to freedom. Her fears are confirmed when Sam's body is found, a victim of snakebite. Meanwhile, Ree's search for Jacques has been successful. He has been living with the Indians, but now is being held as a prisoner of war by the British.
Pierre arrives at the fort demanding that Zettie be returned to him, her rightful owner. Zettie is imprisoned while her fate is determined. The soldiers at the fort pool their money and buy Zettie from Pierre. Soon after, Zettie is sold back to Ree who doesn't understand why she isn't happy. Zettie writes, "My face must have shown my disappointment. I felt more like a thing than ever. How many times had I been bought and sold in the last year?"
Much happens as the year draws to a close. Jacques is brought to trial for desertion and treason, but when no evidence can be found to support these charges, the case is dismissed and he is free to return to his Indian family. Ree receives a proposal of marriage but turns it down to become a teacher at the fort. Zettie celebrates her 13th birthday and is told by Ree that on the first day of 1764, she will be free. Zettie reflects on all she has seen and learned in a year and especially on all the people she has met in the new land. She admires the energy and spirit of those who have sought freedom there, and she writes, "That same spirit has embraced me. I look now to the hills. I know that on the other side is tomorrow. Freedom. And I'm almost there."
Thinking About the Book
- Why is Zettie's diary called Look to the Hills? Does Zettie follow this advice? What evidence can you find that she does?
- What causes the death of Ree's father the Marquis de Boyer?
- Why does Zettie write part of her diary in French and part in English?
- What were some of Zettie's responsibilities as a companion to Ree? Why was Zettie unprepared for life at Fort Niagara?
- What is the difference between a slave like Zettie and an indentured servant like Sally? Why do you think Sally and Zettie became such good friends?
- Ree turns down Captain Woolridge's marriage proposal. Why?
- In her diary entry for October 18, 1763, Zettie recounts a story told to her about Dog and Wolf. Why does Zettie say, "I am Wolf. It is my story."
- Why does Ree challenge Robert Sullivan to a duel? What does that tell you about Ree? What happens when Ree is too ill to fight? What does that tell you about Zettie?
- Lemuel tells Zettie that companion and friend mean the same thing. Do you agree? Why or why not?
- Of all the people Zettie meets in the new world, which one do you think had the biggest influence on her and why?
- Have each member of your Discussion Group identify several of the following names or terms from Zettie's diary. Explain why each is important in Look to the Hills.
*Proclamation of 1763
- Zettie is amazed that her friend Lemuel survived the attack at Devil's Hole. In the Historical Note you find out that Lemuel Matthews was a real person. Research this and tell what you learned about that event.
- On May 20, 1763, Zettie writes of seeing passenger pigeons fly over. Read again what she says about them. Then find out what happened to the passenger pigeon.
- Choose one of the following expressions from Zettie's diary and explain its meaning.
*You're burning daylight.
*Pride goeth before a fall.
*What is given from the heart, reaches the heart.
*Grace under pressure.
- One of Zettie's most valued possessions is her mother's blanket. If you had to choose one object to remind you of a favorite relative, what would that object be? Explain.
Discussion Guide written by Richard F. Abrahamson, Ph.D., Professor of Literature for Children and Young Adults, University of Houston and Eleanore S. Tyson, Ed.D., Clinical Associate Professor, University of Houston, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Houston, Texas.