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August 8, 2009


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Author: Walter Mosley

Page Length: 232

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: 47 is the slave number given to young boy on the Corinthian Plantation when he was determined to be off age. Branded with that number on his left shoulder, 47 must spend his days working the field picking cotton and his nights chained up in a group bunk house. The overseer is a constant threat who often tortures slaves, kills them, or even hangs them from the hanging tree. 47 has all but lost his way until Tall John arrives. Tall John inspires and is inspired by 47 – who one day he says is destined to lead the masses to break the chains of slavery and be free.

REVIEW: The story was riveting in terms of its depiction of plantation life in the south. The horrors and detrimental effects of slavery were well portrayed – for this reason alone the book is an excellent source for making connections with students and history. The idea that any one person could be the chosen one who has a destiny far greater than he or she can comprehend is a beautiful theme. This theme can reinforce for students their own potential and the need to question their “place” in society. The spiritual aspect of the book and the other worldly origins of Tall John were more difficult to grasp – as well as the idea that demon spirits were capable of taking over other people’s bodies. The truth about how dark skinned people were treated inhumanely is accurately portrayed in the book. Even if the whole class didn’t read the book certain excerpts would be excellent for classroom examination and discussion. Overall the book was interesting and unique.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, compare and contrast, character traits, timeline, cause and effect, historical connections

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: language – “niggahs” (page 155), “dragged to the wagon wheel and chained to it hand and foot” (page 154), and many more language issues

RELATED BOOKS: Devil in a Blue Dress, A Red Death, Black Betty, Little Scarlet, The Long Fall, Fortunate Son

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)


REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

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