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Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen

Nightjohn (1996)

by Gary Paulsen

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I really loved the writing style of this book. I could tell that the author wanted it to sound like a slave had written it. There were a lot of sentence fragments and grammatical errors that would be typical of someone with no education, like the main character Sarney. For example, “Come a hard time. Come a awful, hard time,” and “But they’s some of them to cry,” show that the narrator does not have an understanding of sentence structure and grammar rules (p. 42 and 55). I also loved how descriptive the language was. When the narrator described the breathing of the slave owner, she said, “Breath cut in, cut out like a saw cutting wood,” (p. 64). I had never thought of someone’s breathing as a saw before, but I could clearly imagine what harsh and angry breaths he was taking. At times, I felt the book was disturbing because of the treatment of the slaves, but I gained a better understanding of the hardships and maltreatment of African Americans. The purpose of this book was to describe the attitudes of white slave owners on the education of African Americans. The powerful book shows the lengths a slave would go to learn and teach other how to read and write. ( )
  EmilySadler | Apr 9, 2014 |
The young adult novel, Nightjohn, is about slavery in the American South shortly before the Civil War. Based on actual events, the author tells about a young slave girl, Sarny, who is taught to read by another slave, Nightjohn. ( )
  WizardsofWorch | Apr 8, 2014 |
The big idea of this book is showing the power of reading and knowledge. Slave owners did not want slaves to be educated because it gave them more power. I liked this book because it has a powerful message and encourages readers to broaden their world view. John escaped slavery and was a free man but returned in order to teach other slaves how to read and start a reading school. This aspect of the book is very powerful to me. One thing I didn't like about this book is that I wanted to see what came of the underground reading club. I felt like the story ended abruptly and I wanted to know more about the girl's future and wanted to continue with her on her journey to learn to read. ( )
  jdobso4 | Nov 26, 2013 |
The main idea of this book is to portray the horrific and cruel circumstances into which many African Americans were forced during the time of slavery in the United States. This book also shows the importance of education and courageous acts.
I had mixed feelings about this book. One reason I enjoyed this book was because of the character Nightjohn. His unwavering courage and strength in horrifying situations is absolutely inspiring. For example, Nightjohn was whipped many times and even had his toes cut off by his master because he was teaching other slaves to read. Yet, he continued on, never wavering in his pursuit of education for the slaves. This type of persistence and courage, even to the point of unimaginable pain, is just stunning to me.
I also liked this book because of the powerful message it sends about the importance of education and literacy. For example, after Nightjohn had escaped to freedom, he returns to slavery in order to teach other slaves how to read. He endures terrible torture all in the name of education. I think this shows just how precious education is, and how we should always be grateful for our freedom to learn today.
I had mixed feelings about this book because of the extremely graphic depictions of slavery. For example, we read about whippings, removal of appendages, rubbing salt in wounds, etc. While I understand that these are realistic and send an extremely powerful message, I felt that it might have been a bit too violent, especially considering the young adult readers to whom the book is geared. As a college student, I had difficulty reading through some of the passages and found them very upsetting and disturbing. However, I do understand the purpose and merit of these scenes. While I personally found them, in a sense, overly graphic, I do recognize that these scenes will have a lasting, powerful impact on all readers, and will truly imprint the atrocities of slavery in their minds. ( )
  MichelleNappi | Nov 24, 2013 |
This book was very interesting and enjoyable. I liked this book for two reasons. First, the characters were well- developed and believable. This story was based off of a true story, so the emotions and actions by Sarny and NightJohn felt so real the reader was able to feel emotion, sympathy and a connection to the characters through their hardship. The terrible treatment NightJohn was faced with when he was brought into the plantation tied up and beaten, the reader was able to feel a sense of pain, sorrow and helplessness because of the connection the character development allows the reader to develop. The writing emphasized the story extremely. Without the organization, actions, emotions and setting that was described through the use of creative, detailed writing, the book would have never displayed such a strong emotional ride the characters faced through slavery and the emotional connection one gains from reading it which is all due to the great detail and organization the writing had. The reader can take away an understanding of the sad, horrible, emotional and historical outlook of slavery and the trials and tribulations slaves faced during that time. ( )
  mallen16 | Nov 7, 2013 |
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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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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:38 -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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