Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen

Week # 5 in my 52 week Bucket Book List! So many amazing books come in small packages. Like Stone Fox, or Sara Plain and Tall, Night John is the powerful story of a slave and the importance of literacy. Publishers Weekly called this “Among the most powerful of Paulsen’s works (together with Hatchet and Dogsong), this impeccably researched novel sheds light on cruel truths in American history as it traces the experiences of a 12-year-old slave girl in the 1850’s. Narrator Sarny exposes the abuse suffered by her people on the Waller plantation. The punishment for learning to read and write, she knows, is a bloody one, but when new slave Nightjohn offers to teach her the alphabet, Sarny readily agrees. Her decision causes pain for others as well as for herself, yet, inspired by the bravery of Nightjohn, who has given up a chance for freedom in order to educate slaves, Sarny continues her studies. Convincingly written in dialect, this graphic depiction of slavery evokes shame for this country’s forefathers and sorrow for the victims of their inhumanity. Ages 12-up, great topic for conversation. A must read for adults, too.

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