NIGHTJOHN by Gary Paulsen

NIGHTJOHN

Age Range: 14 & up

KIRKUS REVIEW

A searing picture of slavery, sometime in the 19th century at an unspecified place in the South. Sarny, young enough not to have experienced the rape that will come inexorably with child- bearing age, tells how she learned to read, and at what cost. Nightjohn has escaped more than once, but courageously returns to share his knowledge with those who have no way of knowing the world beyond their plantation. Caught, he arrives as a slave driven by the viciously cruel master, Clel Waller. Sarny has been warned of the dangers of learning to read, and knows the terrible punishments are not empty threats but realities; still, Nightjohn easily persuades her to learn--which seems more plausible than Sarny's careless writing of letters with her toe in the dirt, so that Waller catches her. Fiendishly, he chooses to punish her adopted "mammy," thus impelling a confession from Nightjohn-- who survives his own brutal penalty to escape and return to teach again. The compelling events are ineradicably memorable. Paulsen begins by saying that, "Except for variations in time and character identification and placement, [they] are true and actually happened." But like that last phrase, some of the violence here is redundant: it's not necessary to describe three different but equally terrible deaths suffered by runaways set upon by dogs to make the point. Still, the anguish is all too real in this brief, unbearably vivid book. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-385-30838-8
Page count: 80pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1993




MORE BY GARY PAULSEN

ChildrenFIELD TRIP by Gary Paulsen
by Gary Paulsen
ChildrenFAMILY TIES by Gary Paulsen
by Gary Paulsen
ChildrenVOTE by Gary Paulsen
by Gary Paulsen

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

ChildrenPASSENGER ON THE <i>PEARL</i> by Winifred Conkling
by Winifred Conkling
ChildrenTHE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH by Chris Barton
by Chris Barton
ChildrenAFRICA IS MY HOME by Monica Edinger
by Monica Edinger