Coverart for item
The Resource Nightjohn, Gary Paulsen

Nightjohn, Gary Paulsen

Label
Nightjohn
Title
Nightjohn
Statement of responsibility
Gary Paulsen
Title variation
Night John
Creator
Subject
Genre
Language
eng
Summary
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. Sarny, a female slave at the Waller plantation, first sees Nightjohn when he is brought there with a rope around his neck, his body covered in scars. He had escaped north to freedom, but he came back--came back to teach reading. Knowing that the penalty for reading is dismemberment, Nightjohn still retumed to slavery to teach others how to read. And twelve-year-old Sarny is willing to take the risk to learn. Set in the 1850s, Gary Paulsen's groundbreaking new novel is unlike anything else the award-winning author has written. It is a meticulously researched, historically accurate, and artistically crafted portrayal of a grim time in our nation's past, brought to light through the personal history of two unforgettable characters
Tone
Writing style
Award
  • Young Hoosier Book Award, Middle Books, 1997.
  • ALA Notable Children's Book, 1994
Review
  • Books for Youth, Older Readers: Gr. 6-12. In this story Paulsen exposes two popular lies about slavery: that slaves were really content, well cared for, ignorant, and childlike, happily singing on the old plantation, and that brave, resourceful slaves escaped all the time and it was easy. He tells the story in the voice of 12-year-old Sarny, born a slave, the property of Clel Waller, whom Sarny and the other slaves are forced to call "master." Sarny's mother had been sold when the child was four "because she was a good breeder, and Waller he needed the money." In quiet, simple words, Sarny tells of daily atrocity: public whippings, unbroken labor, animal-like living conditions, and, for a woman, constant rape. Sarny tries to keep secret the fact that she's started menstruating, because it means she will be sent to the breeding shed. The conditions are historically accurate, but the question arises--as with books about the Holocaust--How do you write about such cruelty and suffering? Paulsen uses no rhetoric, but some of the gruesome scenes of dismemberment and the close-ups of beatings given nude slaves sensationalize the violence. What gives the story transcendence is the character Nightjohn, who fires Sarny with hope. He once escaped north to freedom, and now he's come back to teach slaves what is fiercely forbidden them--reading. When he's caught showing Sarny the alphabet, two of his toes are cut off, but he escapes again. A final nighttime scene of Sarny with a group of slaves in a secret underground pit school is lit with the courage of the human spirit. ((Reviewed Dec. 15, 1992)) -- Hazel Rochman
  • Among the most powerful of Paulsen's works ( Hatchet ; The Winter Room ; Dogsong ), this impeccably researched novel sheds light on cruel truths in American history as it traces the experiences of a 12-year-old slave girl in the 1850s. Narrator Sarny exposes the abuse (routine beatings, bondage, dog attacks, forced "breeding") suffered by her people on the Waller plantation. The punishment for learning to read and write, she knows, is a bloody one, but when new slave Nightjohn offers to teach her the alphabet, Sarny readily agrees. Her decision causes pain for others as well as for herself, yet, inspired by the bravery of Nightjohn, who has given up a chance for freedom in order to educate slaves, Sarny continues her studies. Convincingly written in dialect, this graphic depiction of slavery evokes shame for this country's forefathers and sorrow for the victims of their inhumanity. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)
  • A searing picture of slavery, sometime in the 19th century at an unspecified place in the South. Sarny, young enough not to have experienced the rape that will come inexorably with child- bearing age, tells how she learned to read, and at what cost. Nightjohn has escaped more than once, but courageously returns to share his knowledge with those who have no way of knowing the world beyond their plantation. Caught, he arrives as a slave driven by the viciously cruel master, Clel Waller. Sarny has been warned of the dangers of learning to read, and knows the terrible punishments are not empty threats but realities; still, Nightjohn easily persuades her to learn--which seems more plausible than Sarny's careless writing of letters with her toe in the dirt, so that Waller catches her. Fiendishly, he chooses to punish her adopted "mammy," thus impelling a confession from Nightjohn-- who survives his own brutal penalty to escape and return to teach again. The compelling events are ineradicably memorable. Paulsen begins by saying that, "Except for variations in time and character identification and placement, [they] are true and actually happened." But like that last phrase, some of the violence here is redundant: it's not necessary to describe three different but equally terrible deaths suffered by runaways set upon by dogs to make the point. Still, the anguish is all too real in this brief, unbearably vivid book. (Fiction. YA) (Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 1993)
http://library.link/vocab/ext/novelist/bookUI
079994
Cataloging source
DLC
http://library.link/vocab/creatorName
Paulsen, Gary
Dewey number
[Fic]
Index
no index present
Interest level
MG
LC call number
PS3566.A834
LC item number
N55 1993
Literary form
fiction
http://library.link/vocab/ext/novelist/minGradeLevel
  • 6
  • 12
Reading level
3.8
http://library.link/vocab/resourcePreferred
True
Study program name
Accelerated Reader AR
http://library.link/vocab/subjectName
  • Slavery
  • Reading
  • Slavery
  • Slavery
  • Reading
  • Reading
  • Slavery
Target audience
juvenile
Label
Nightjohn, Gary Paulsen
Instantiates
Publication
Copyright
Carrier category
volume
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Control code
211194
Dimensions
25 cm
Extent
92 pages
Isbn
9780385308380
Isbn Type
(hardcover)
Lccn
92001222
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
Media type code
  • n
System control number
  • (Sirsi) i9780385308380
  • (OCoLC)25316274
Label
Nightjohn, Gary Paulsen
Publication
Copyright
Carrier category
volume
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Control code
211194
Dimensions
25 cm
Extent
92 pages
Isbn
9780385308380
Isbn Type
(hardcover)
Lccn
92001222
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
Media type code
  • n
System control number
  • (Sirsi) i9780385308380
  • (OCoLC)25316274

Library Locations

    • Central LibraryBorrow it
      710 W. Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, 78701, US
      30.2713021 -97.7460168
Processing Feedback ...