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The Story of Jonas by Maurine F. Dahlberg

The Story of Jonas

by Maurine F. Dahlberg

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A house slave on the Hoopers' Missouri farm in 1859, 13-year-old Jonas aspires to become his master's manservant when he grows big enough. Before that day comes, though, he is sent to accompany the Hoopers' ne'er-do-well son, Percy, to the goldfields in the Kansas Territory. Jonas proves his worth to their companions in the wagon train and, seeing new possibilities for his life, begins to dream of freedom. When Percy puts him in an unbearable situation, Jonas sets a new course for his future. Dahlberg paints a convincing picture of Jonas, who is surprised by what he finds in the broader world and increasingly hopeful that he can make his own way, given a chance. Though there are many stock characters, the attitudes and outlooks of the slaves in the opening scenes are sensitively portrayed. The ability to let readers feel the essential cruelty of slavery without scenes of excessive brutality makes this well-crafted, engaging novel appropriate for a middle-grade audience. Category: Books for Middle Readers--Fiction. 2007, Farrar, $16.
  Junep | Feb 25, 2008 |
Dahlberg, Maurine. The Story of Jonas. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2007.

Summary: This book chronicles the life of a thirteen year old slave name Jonas who lives in the South in the 1800’s. Both his father and mother have passed away and he depends on other slaves for advice and companionship. As Jonas’ story is told, numerous incidents of the sad realities and humiliation of slave life are spoken of.
One day he is told that he will be accompanying his master’s son on a trip to Kansas to look for gold. On the journey he meets up with some people who do not believe in slavery and who begin to teach him out to read. After many days on the journey he learns that most of the slaves that he knew back home were sold off after trying to escape. One was also whipped and another was killed. This convinces Jonas that he must escape, which he does with the help of a young girl. The book ends after Jonas has met up with a man who promises to lead him to Mexico.
Age: The book is appropriate for children aged 11 and 12. Its length of 148 pages and its mature and heartbreaking topics fit this age range. The story also talks frequently about how Jonas’ survived his ordeals, something which this age group enjoys.
Usage: I would incorporate this book into an American History curriculum in order to put faces and emotions into the horrible truth of our country’s history of slavery.
  cdl | Sep 10, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374372640, Hardcover)

Jonas has lived all of his thirteen years on a farm in Missouri, and even though he hears whispers about freedom, he thinks he’ll never try to escape. He knows what happens to slaves who attempt to run away. Besides, Master William has promised to make Jonas his personal manservant, and Jonas thinks fine suits and special privileges sound like a dream. But this dream is put on hold when, in 1859, Master William’s good-for-nothing son, Percy, decides to seek his fortune in the Kansas Territory gold fields, taking Jonas along as his cook and caretaker. Although Percy is a brutal master, Jonas is surprised to find that the other members of the wagon train don’t hold his views about slavery. Jonas even befriends a doctor’s daughter, who teaches him how to read. And with each word Jonas learns, he discovers that there are much bigger dreams a boy can have than being another man’s servant.
In this unforgettable novel, Maurine F. Dahlberg tells the story of a slave coming to understand his own worth.
The Story of Jonas is a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:30 -0400)

In the mid-1800s, a slave boy dreams of escaping to freedom while on a journey from Missouri to the gold fields of Kansas Territory with his master's n'er-do-well son.

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