SARNY by Gary Paulsen


A Life Remembered
Age Range: 11 - 13
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The slave child who learned to read in Nightjohn (1993) looks back from the age of 94 on her life during and after the Civil War. It's a moving tale, made more so by Sarny's clipped, matter-of-fact voice--utterly distinct, with strength and determination shining through every line. Paulsen moves away both from the first book's mystic language and explicit brutality; Sarny watches hated slavaowner Waller die of a bayonet wound, and later sits with four gut-shot soldiers (whose names she still remembers so many decades later), but both scenes are virtually bloodless. When it comes to describing the occupation of Laura Harris, Sarny is all but oblique: "She lived in a fancy house in New Orleans where men came and went," and "I don't think too much on her morals. Just think on her as a friend." A friend indeed: Miss Laura, passing as white, not only pays generous wages, but gives Sarny a house and a building for her first school, and makes her heir to a huge fortune. Sarny leaves it all in her daughter Delie's hands and sets out for Texas to start more schools. The next 50 years pass in a few paragraphs, the ending seems abrupt, and, ultimately, the plot takes too many convenient turns; still, Sarny's indomitability will win over skeptics, and the way her ability to read frees more than her body will not be lost on thoughtful readers. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-32195-3
Page count: 180pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1997


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