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Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen

Nightjohn (1996)

by Gary Paulsen

Other authors: Jerry Pinkney (Illustrator)

Series: Nightjohn (1)

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6926813,753 (4.1)18



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Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
I really enjoyed this book for a few reasons. The whole main idea was to tell of the brutal times during slavery where slaves were forced to work in poor conditions and were beaten if they ever misbehaved. As many know, next to running away, reading and writing was the next forbidden thing that slaves should not be doing. This story tells of a tale where one brave slave started to teach a girl (the main character) how to read. I really like this book because of the way it was written. It really gives you the authentic feel of a slave talking during this time period because a lot of the thoughts and sayings don’t make grammatical sense like “sometimes Waller he goes buys them one or two or whatever from the wagon and brings them home”. It just adds a level of authenticity to the story. The other aspect I liked was that even when the story wasn’t talking through dialogue and it was just the girl’s thoughts, they still used the same type of language. This added even more to the story because as a reader, you’re reading from a characters perspective and even in her mind her thoughts are written just how her language would be if she was speaking. For example “he didn’t stop at the pump, he run him all in the fields, naked as he be born, to get hoeing.” I really enjoyed reading a book that made me feel as if I was in the time with the characters. ( )
  JaylenWhite | Nov 2, 2015 |
I liked this book for a variety of different reasons. The issues brought about in Nightjohn made it such an emotional read for a Historical Fiction book. This book presented many of the issues of slavery and how they had poor living conditions were not even allowed to read or write. In including these historical facts, the author made this book an amazing historical fiction book. I also like this book because of the Point of View it is written in. The book is in the POV of Sarny, a young African-American female whom is a slave. I think that the story being in the POV of a young slave was a phenomenal and powerful choice. The narrator being young gives her a sense of innocence, and in a story like this, that conveys how atrocious the living standards and hardships are. Sarny being young makes it so much powerful that she goes through trying to grow up & better herself and then experiencing John having his toes cut off after Waller catches Sarny writing letters in dirt. The message of this story is how powerful the abilities to read and write truly are and how everyday people can take them for granted. ( )
  tpuryear | Oct 26, 2015 |
I had mixed feelings about this book because Sarny, a main character in the story, was very descriptive when explaining the major events that happened in the book. I liked John, another main character in the story, because he was believable and well-developed. I liked the point of view this story is told in because you see a younger perspective interpreting the events that happened during slavery.

Sarny talks about different events that happen throughout the story in a detailed manner. It is quite disturbing when reading it just because you can vividly imagine exactly how masters use to punish their slaves for disobeying them. For example, “The master set the dogs on him and they tore and ripped what they could reach until there wasn’t any meat on Jim’s legs or bottom.” John’s purpose is to teach fellow slaves how to read. It is incredible to see how he willingly goes back to the plantations just to educate others even if it means risking his life. The end of the book talks about him leaving after the master cuts off both his toes and returning to get Sarny for the night lessons he starts to hold. The story is told is Sarny’s point of view and it makes the book that much more powerful because Sarny is in her pre-teen years and she is seeing all this cruelty and misery happening before her eyes on a daily basis. Her innocence is shattered in a way because no one, especially a girl her age, should experience what she has gone through.

The main message in the story is that doing what is best for the greater good of the people is sometimes worth putting your own life at risk. The amount of lives you impact by spreading knowledge overpowers the pain you might go through for doing so. ( )
  XiomaraGonzalez | Oct 26, 2015 |
I like this book for three reasons. First, I like this book because it forces the reader to think about tough issues. The book focuses on the issue of slavery. The book is set during a time in the United States where African Americans were forced to work on plantations. Throughout the book, the main character experiences life on the plantation and the difficulty that comes with it. The book then focuses on the hard issue of reading and writing during this time. One of the slaves brought to the plantation begins to teach Sarny how to read and write. This was something that was against the law for the people to do. This book points out the difficulty in learning how to read and write at this time as well as displays the importance of it. Therefore, the reader is forced to delve into hard and difficult concepts.
Second, I like this book because it is set in the first person point of view from the perspective of a young African American child who is working on the plantation. Because the book is set from a young child’s perspective, there is a level of innocence that is added to the text and the content matter. For instance, Sarny is unable to fully comprehend the true reality that surrounds her life. She does not understand how learning to read and write is a highly punishable act. In addition, she understands that the women are breeders; however, she does not comprehend the acts that are involved in this situation. In the story, Sarny states, “She didn’t take well to it and fought and they tied her to make it happen, in the breeding shed back of the quarters but it went bad on her head and her thinking.” In this quote, Sarny knows that something occurred to Alice; however, she does not comprehend the full actions that were involved. By having the book be from the perspective of a child, the author is able to provide a hint of innocence to the content and in a way block out a full and detailed look into the harsh realities that surrounded this time.
Third, I like this book because the writing style emphasizes the point of view of the story. The whole book is shown from a young child’s perspective. This is then distinguished in the writing. For instance, the author writes, “Next morning they took her down and they was some maggot eggs but not so bad.” This sentence displays the young age of the narrator because the sentence is not grammatically correct. The narrator has replaced the word “there” with the word “they” in the sentence. By employing incorrect grammar throughout the book, the author distinguishes the writing as being from a young child. In this way, the author enhances the perspective of the book and provides further depth.
Throughout the whole book, the author seeks to display the main message as how reading and writing are powerful tools that can provide a person a voice to speak out. John mentioned how he came back after finding freedom in order to teach people how to read and write. He stated, “We all have to read and write so we can write about this-what they doing to us. It has to be written.” Therefore, the main message in the story is to show the reader how reading and writer provide a voice to the people. ( )
  ChristinaAlms | Oct 20, 2015 |
A quick read, narrated with the realistic voice of an illiterate slave (something that took me a while to adapt to). While it is very easy to read as far as reading level goes, it was one of the most difficult books I have read. My reactions included dizziness, vomiting, and crying, but again, I'm highly sensitive to graphic violence. I wish this book had a disclaimer and I really wouldn't have read it if that had been the case.

This experience was equivalent to watching "Roots". What I mean by "really liked it" in my rating is actually "I think the content is important to know and the book is effective in portraying the horrors of slavery." However, I did not in ANY WAY like it.

( )
  engpunk77 | Aug 10, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gary Paulsenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pinkney, JerryIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Questo libro è dedicato alla memoria di Sally Hemings, comperata, allevata e in seguito usata da Thomas Jefferson, terzo Presidente degli Stati Uniti, senza che mai potesse permettersi un solo respiro da donna libera.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0440219361, Paperback)

Imagine being beaten for learning to read, shackled and whipped for learning a few letters of the alphabet. Now, imagine a man brave enough to risk torture in order to teach others how to read; his name is Nightjohn, and he sneaks into the slave camps at night to teach other slaves how to read and write. Celebrated author Gary Paulsen writes a searing meditation on why the ability to read and write is radical, empowering , and so necessary to our freedom. These skills threaten our oppressors because they allow us to communicate--to learn the real status of our slavery and to seek liberation. In this tightly written, painful, joyous little novel is a key that may unlock the power of reading for even the most reluctant teens.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:59 -0400)

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Twelve-year-old Sarny's brutal life as a slave becomes even more dangerous when a newly arrived slave offers to teach her how to read.

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