Skip to main content

FunTimes Magazine

The Reading Quilt: Snatch: The Adventures of David and Me in Old New York

Oct 06, 2023 10:00AM ● By Dr. Rachel Slaughter

Historical fiction (HF) is a magical literary genre. It can turn reluctant readers into history buffs. Usually, HF stories dramatize an event that took place over 40 years ago. Essentially, an HF book brings a real setting or actual event back to life inviting readers to delve into both realistic and imaginary elements of a historical event or place. One of the most popular historical fiction books for young adult readers published in 2021 was The Angel of Greenwood (Feiwel & Friends, January 12, 2021) by Randi Pink detailing the Greenwood Massacre (or Tulsa Race Massacre) in Tulsa, OK

Historical fiction, which is closely aligned with Realistic Fiction, is a popular genre for young adult readers because the stories mimic real life, making the genre an attractive choice for educators. Young people have a strong curiosity about human nature and how to maneuver in this complicated world. However, with topics that range from race massacres to police brutality to mail-order brides, historical and realistic fiction marketed for adolescent readers can be a tricky choice for the middle school classroom.

Both realistic and historical fiction inspire curiosity in young adult readers who are fascinated by the imaginative way an author spins a historical event into a story that will include recognizable settings. Readers are fascinated and engrossed with the themes that the author’s evoke about topics like “coming of age,” “good and evil,” “racism” and “survival.” 

Each month “The Reading Quilt” provides a short review of a book that a teacher may use to spark conversations about culture and race, along with a learning activity that may help students understand human behavior. Using the acronym QUILT, the review offers readers information about the Quality of writing, Universal theme, Imaginative plot, a mini Lesson plan, and Talking points that stem from the book’s premise.

This month, the Reading Quilt selection is a realistic fiction novella, written by the late Charles Fuller titled Snatch: The Adventures of David and Me in Old New York (David and Me Publishing Inc., 2010). 

Charles Fuller

Image: Chalres Fuller. Source:, Copyright belongs to photographer.

Charles Fuller  (1939-2022), who was a native of North Philadelphia, penned the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright A Soldier’s Play. He also wrote plays like One Night, The Brownsville Raid, and Zooman and the Sign, which won the Obie Award in 1980.

Born in Philadelphia in 1939, Fuller attended Roman Catholic High School, Villanova University, and LaSalle University. In fact, it was at Roman Catholic High School that Fuller discovered his passion to become a writer. Dismayed by the lack of books by African American authors in his high school’s library, he vowed to become an author who could represent his African American culture.

Quality: In Snatch: The Adventures of David and Me in Old New York, Fuller introduces his young readers to two brothers, David and Charles, “free” Black kids who live in the Five Points neighborhood of antebellum New York City in 1838. Five Points, which was located in Lower Manhattan, included a five-point intersection that is named as “the principal stop on the Underground Railroad in New York.” (Now, the Five Points neighborhood is in Chinatown). With New York as the backdrop, David and Charles, always on the hunt for adventure, meet a fugitive slave named Freddie Johnson and they help him “elude a gang of slave catchers led by a mysterious man called Snatch.” Over 36 hours, the boys face turmoil in the tunnels of Old New York, witches, a gang fight, and a big reveal.

Universal theme: Fuller, skilled at bringing history alive, captures the spirit of the two brothers and their quest to protect a fugitive slave. Told from a first-person point of view, Snatch features characters with cool nicknames and historical icons that young people can research as part of a separate, but related history lesson. A discussion of “Ole’-Hit-You-With-A-Switch Moses Bowman,” the boys’ teacher in the Colored Free School, could spark a classroom conversation about racially segregated schools and African American families’ paramount desire to educate their children (before, during, and after slavery). Complete with a teacher’s guide written by Marguerite Tiggs Birt, the story is the perfect addition to a middle school history curriculum.

Imaginative plot: Snatch will take a young reader on a romp that may abbreviate his social media obsession for a few hours. Through clues, a rousing chase, and near-death experiences, the book underscores the theme of “freedom.” Fuller is gifted in creating believable characters like Charles and David. The inquisitive boys are brothers who protect each other through thick and thin, while teasing each other at the same time. Their familial bond and brotherly affection will warm the readers’ hearts.

Lesson plan: This book highlights elements of historical fiction such as iconic images, historical figures, and facts that can lead a student into a great research project. Fuller’s historical novel includes the Underground Railroad, fugitive slaves, and the milieu of antebellum New York.

Talking points: Additionally, the novel provides the platform to discuss some complex ideas about the institution of slavery. These resources provide teachers with possible talking or writing prompts to help students think critically about slavery.

 Dr. R. A. Slaughter’s (Doc) textbooks Turning the Page: The Ultimate Guide for Teachers to Multicultural Literature, and Turning the Page: A Guide to Securing Multicultural Literature for Schools, both published by Rowman & Littlefield and available in all bookstores, have brought Doc global recognition. For more information, log onto or check out “The Reading Quilt '' talk show, every Monday, at 3:30pm on Philly Cam.

Read more from Dr. Rachel Slaughter:

The Reading Quilt Ghost Boys

The Reading Quilt: Ghost Boys

How would our country change if we were greeted by dead victims of white supremacists who returned as ghosts to nonviolently oppose racism? Would racial crimes dissipate? Read More » 


The Reading Quilt After Tupac  D Foster

The Reading Quilt: After Tupac & D Foster

In her book After Tupac & D Foster (Putnam, 2008), prolific young adult author Jacqueline Woodson introduces her readers to a group of Tupac’s biggest fans. Read More » 


Reading Quilt: The Song of the Trees

In less than fifty pages, Mildred Taylor introduces us to several members of the Logan family including a couple of plucky kids determined to protect the family’s treasured land. Read More »