The Book Reviews – Website

October 17, 2008


Filed under: N — thebookreviews @ 7:45 pm
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Author: Gary Paulsen

Page Length: 98

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Nightjohn tells the story of slavery in the deep south. Sarny is a young girl being raised by old Delie who raises all the young slaves. Sarny’s birth mother was sold off as a breeder when she was young. Sarny knows of all sorts of human atrocities. She has seen and knows of people being whipped, beaten, hung, and even raped. Delie keeps sticks to tell how she old is (about 12) and worries about the trouble coming to her. One day, a new slave named Nightjohn arrives. Sarny can tell that he is different than all the rest. She soon learns out why. Nightjohn can read (something slaves are forbidden to do). Nightjohn begins to teach Sarny and the troubles begin. Sarny loves making letters and is caught drawing them in the dirt. What lengths will Waller go to in order to keep what he considers his slaves from learning to read? Will they be willing to pay the price for knowledge anyway?

REVIEW: What a great lesson this book is about the value of education. Students can begin to explore why the slave owners wanted their slaves to be illiterate. This story is graphic but historically sound. The characters and the events in the story are well developed and moving.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: historical context, creating a timeline, predictions, causes and effects, summarization, question the text, comprehending impact on point of view, sequence of events, setting

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: pg. 44 “every time there was somebody to be on the wall … and be whipped or other punishments we all had to watch”

Graphic descriptions of whippings and salt being put in wounds while the wounded was left tied up for the flies to infect the wounds

Graphic descriptions of a beating and toes being chopped off

Language “god damn you — don’t you lie to me” pg. 63

RELATED BOOKS: The Crossing, Brian’s Winter, Hatchet, Good-bye and Keep Cold, Fallen Angels, The Island, The Foxman, Tracker, Dogsong, The Foxman, The River Between Us

RELATED MOVIES: “Nightjohn” produced by The Disney Channel



REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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