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Nightjohn [Mass Market Paperback]

Gary Paulsen
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 7.99
Price: CDN$ 7.59 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Book Description

Jan. 1 1995
"To know things, for us to know things, is bad for them. We get to wanting and when we get to wanting it's bad for them. They thinks we want what they got . . . . That's why they don't want us reading." --Nightjohn

"I didn't know what letters was, not what they meant, but I thought it might be something I wanted to know. To learn." -- Sarny

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.

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Product Description

From Amazon

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.

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Night john June 18 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen there were many interasting points.The book Nightjohn is about a man named Nightjohn. He has a daughter and her name is Lany. John saw a lady and he could not stop looking at her. His boss called him and he did not hear him. So then got wipped by his boss and Wallace helped him. When he met the woman he knew that was the one he would love. She liked him also but they couldn't get marred so then they jumped over the broom to symbolize marriage. Every time John got whipped wallace helped him.
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5.0 out of 5 stars NIGHT JOHN June 18 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Real Thing March 22 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
NightJohn was one of the few books that stuck in my mind. This book taught me to appriciate that I live in the time where we moslty always get along. This book is about a 10 year old African American slave that lives on the Waller plantation. people think she is dumb because she is quiet, but that is how she learn she listens and learn things. then one day while working on the roses in the garden by the "white house" where Sarny over heard that Mr. Waller bought a new slave. the wife said that he cost one thousand dollars. later that day there came Mr. Waller with a man nadked as the day he was born came to the main yard. then he just runns him in to the faild to start working. later that night he sits alone in a corner of the quaters. he asks for a lip of tobacco. since Sarny was working in the flower bed she had to chew and spit tobacco on the roses to keep the bugs away. she still had some left over and wonders what he could have to offer for he had nothing. then he says that he would trade it for letters. Sarny wondered what these "letters" he was talking about. will she trade or not?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Life of Slaves on a Plantation Jan. 30 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"Nightjohn" was an extraordinary book about slaves and one slave,
Sarny, who did what no one could do. After her mother was sold, she stayed with her mammy, but it was not her mother. She was the mother of the plantation children.The plantation was owned by Waller. Waller would not allow the slaves to read or write. Gary Paulson shows great details about life as a slave. Waller brought Nightjohn to the plantation. He was in chains and had scars on his back like someone had taken a cheese grater and ran down its back with it. Nightjohn wanted to teach Sarny to read and write and he did. It's a remarkable story about Sarny and her long road to read and write. Not only watching mammy and fellow slaves get whipped and punished, Sarny never gave up. She showed spirit and determination to overcome her goals.If I was a slave I would follow my dream like Sarny.
If you like history about slaves then I recommend this book.
GRADES 4th-12th should read this book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Nightjohn Oct. 2 2003
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Nightjohn is a very exiting book. This book is about a 14-year-old slave named Sarny who meets a slave who ran away to the north, but came back to teach slaves how to read. Sarny is very excited about learning to read. I would recommend this book to boys or girls 8-11 years old. I liked this book because it kept you on the edge of your seat.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Nightjohn March 6 2003
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book is about Sarny, telling the story of John. He is the new slave brought to the plantation. He knows how to read and write and Sarny wants to learn. Every night for some tobacco, John teaches Sarny a letter of the alphabet so she can learn to read and spell words. This book tells it like it is (or WAS) it takes you through the story as if you were there learning with Sarny and witnessing all the events happening on the plantation. This was a great book and I highly recommend reading it, it is actually educational and still interesting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Has an important and powerful message Feb. 22 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Reading - what does it mean to you? Many adore that word, and those people happen to be bookworms. But some detest that word, considering that reading is boring. Many people take reading for granted. But for an enslaved person, the ability to read is very powerful.
"Nightjohn" is the tale of a young, female, black slave who learned how to read, and the man who dared break the rules to teach it. Sarny is a curious, little girl, a slave from birth, who resides in the plantation of Mr. Waller during the Civil War. For her, life is the same, until a mysterious black man named John teaches her something new, the ability to read and write. Though the rules forbid that a slave should learn that, Sarney and John risk everything to learn and teach one of man's most powerful tactics.
"Nightjohn" - an inspiring tale set during a time of despair and suffering, when the Civil War tore a nation apart, when people sorrowfully leave their families to do what they believed was right. It was a time when slavery existed, and suffering slaves risk their lives to seek freedom.
Short and fast-moving (only 90 pages), "Nightjohn" has an important message. Many people can learn from this story. It teaches that words are the most powerful weapon that can be used against injustice and corruption. The book acuratelly portrays the cruel and violent life of a slave during 1800s America, and the despairs and hopes they kept during a horrible time. "Nightjohn" will convince you that slavery should never have existed!
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