Book info

Nightjohn (1995)

Nightjohn (1995)
Author
Rating
3.8 of 5 Votes: 3
ISBN
0440219361 (ISBN13: 9780440219361)
languge
English
series
publisher
laurel leaf
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Nightjohn (1995)
Nightjohn (1995)

About book: Nightjohn is a story of a young 12 year old girl, Sarny, under 19th century slavery. The reader learns early in the novel that her birth mother was sold when she was 4 years old. She was raised by mammy, another slave whose job it was to care for all the young children. Sarny guesses she is 12 by marks on the wall mammy has made to measure all the youth in her care. She begins to worry about “troubles” and the possibility she will soon be used as a breeder. She is surrounded by tremendous pain, and as a result is a very quiet introspective girl. She spends time every night thinking about what has taken place that day. She tells the reader about slaves who have tried to run away and were given to the dogs, slaves who bled to death after castration went wrong, and young girls who have lost their minds when made to be breeders. Nightjohn enters as a new slave, who is brought onto the plantation in a particularly degrading manner, naked and running behind the horse. He is put to work immediately upon arrival, and Sarny wonders what his story is. On one of his first nights there, the two strike a deal- three letters of the alphabet in exchange for a lip of tobacco. Afterwards, he continues to teach her to read, in spite of warnings from Mammi. She becomes excited when she learns the letters A-H and is able to read and write the word B-A-G. She forgets herself and traces the word in the dirt, where the master can see. In order to find out who is teaching children to read, he hangs Mammy for hours, and then saddles her like a beast of burden and whips her. It is too much for Nightjohn to bear, and he confesses. The master amputates his toes with a hammer. After Nightjohn heals he runs away, promising to return. Sarny does not believe him and is shocked when he returns to take her to a nightschool where he teaches groups of young slaves to read and write. The novel ends with Sarny beginning to help Nightjohn teach.This book is educationally significant because it covers an important part of American history- slavery in the 19th century. However, more than the average piece of historical fiction, Nightjohn offers tremendous opportunity for literary study. The story is told in first person, and students can examine the use of grammar, syntax and vernacular. Another strong literary feature of the novel is the development of character. The first person narration lends itself to deep exploration of motive and change. The book also presents wonderful opportunity to study setting setting and theme. It would make for valuable lessons to research 19th century America in regard to slavery and race. I would also encourage students to think about how America’s past has influenced racism in its present day form. Apart from race, there are other very strong themes for students to dig into. Nightjohn deals with gender, rape and sexual abuse, religion, education, hope, mental illness, sacrifice, bravery, survival, and family. Students would have a great deal of choice in terms of individual projects, and classroom discussion around any of these themes is sure to be rich.In addition, the novel is very skillfully written, with many of the literary features found in the classics. Nightjohn is a brilliant study in tone, mood, foreshadowing, symbolism, flashbacks, plot structure, as well as literary tropes like simile, metaphor, personification, etc. Many of the skills developed in studying Nightjohn are perfectly aligned with Common Core standards, and will not only prepare them for the test, but will also develop deep critical thinking skills. From a subjective point of view, it will stir their humanity, challenge stereotypes, inspire compassion, and lead to important questions (For example: Slavery was codified by law. Helping a slave escape was illegal. For a slave to escape or attempt to escape was illegal. Is there a difference between legal and right? Is it ever right to challenge or break the law even if it is illegal?) Regardless of the answers each student reaches, the exercise in thinking critically will benefit them tremendously as students and as people.

**Spoiler Alert** THIS REVIEW INCLUDES SPOILERS FOR ANY PEOPLE WHO HAVEN´T READ THIS BOOK YET. This book has a great writer behind it, Gary Paulsen one great writer and I´m glad that this book was written by him. This book has much to offer with a story of slaves in a plantation in the South. The book in my opinion is a great feat of a slave. the Genre of this book is realistic fiction. The conflict is Person vs Person.Nightjohn is a book about one mans determination to teach slaves to read and write. He knows the consequences of teaching them and he still took it anyway. It is based on a Plantation in the South where slaves are treated as a poor excuse for a human being. The whole plot is about how a slave came to the plantation where the Main Character named Sarny and the slave named John was asking if anyone has tobacco and he´ll teach them a couple of letters. The conflict is the mean plantation owner who sends dogs out to any slave who tries to escape. Sarny later learns from John how to spell words and one word was BAG. as she spelled the word the plantation owner saw her and asked her what was she doing and he punched her in the stomach in order for her do talk but she wouldn't crack and kept telling him lies. Sarny's mother later came up to him and he asked her where did she learn how to read and write and he took Sarny's mother and tied her up by the greenhouse and when the day was done the slaves were forced to watch as the plantation owner ripped Sarny's mother's clothes and put a saddle around here shoulders and made her pull a wagon with him in it and her shoulders were bleeding. Until John came up and said he taught her and the next thing John knew was that his feet were shackled and his toe has a chisel on it and a hammer behind it and wham his toe came clean off. this event change Sarny's view of slavery.I was very horrified when the run away slave was hanging on a tree getting his legs ripped apart by the dogs. I was also angry when the plantation owner tortured John and Alice. If I were the author I would at least talk a little bit more about the North and freedom and of the location of the plantation and the year. The only part I liked was when John escaped the plantation in shoes made out of leather and lathered in pork fat or lard. The other part that was my favorite was when after he left and he came back and took Sarny to ¨school¨ and she learned words and then he became NightJohn.I rated this book a 5 because it tells about a slave that escaped to the North then came back to teach the slaves to read and write. even after he got his consequence of getting 2 toes chopped off he still came back and took Sarny to ¨school¨. I would recommend this book to any readers who like books about the slave days and their captivity. This book is one of Gary Paulsen´s best and the part that really stunned me was when he said that he only came back to teach the slaves so they can write and tell people of what they did to them and how they were treated.
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Reviews
Michael
This is an extremely short book (92 pages of size 16 font), but man is it intense! I'm not sure what grade level this book is appropriate for: maybe 8th or 9th, but definitely not for kids. There is a lot of violence, and a lot of references to slave women (if you count a 12 year old as a woman) being 'bred' by their owners. While the sexuality is not graphic, the implications are horrendous. This book is about the power of education. Told in the voice of an adolescent slave girl named Sary, Nightjohn is about an escaped slave who purposefully returns to the south to teach slave children how to read. The author does a good job of showing just how ignorant someone is when they are intentionally denied any kid of knowledge. The narrator, literally, knows nothing about the world around her, but she has raw intelligence and takes to Nightjohn's instructions with great enthusiasm. I found this book disturbing in the same was that 12 Years a Slave is disturbing. There is not bright side; no "but the slaves were happy sometimes" as there so often is in media portrayals of slavery. The slaves are miserable, abused, and hopeless. It's very dark. I couldn't help but be reminded of this story as I read it.Jada Williams
Jennifer
The slavery population in our American history suffered tremendous abuse. The story NightJohn written by Gary Paulsen was based on a true story and actually happened during a dark and horrifying time in our American culture. Although Paulsen was vague on dates and details, he did a good job of letting us know that the story’s backdrop setting was far too common in the south during the time of slavery. The book was an easy read but compact with a lot of information and facts on how slaves were treated and misused for nothing more than animals. As an adult I felt my eyes well with tears as Sarney, the main character in the story she talk about just a few short months in her life and how it changed her world because of one brave man who was willing take the extra mile and teach his people (slaves) how to read and write.
Breanna
I thought the novel was amazing for many reasons.I thought it was amazing because it represents many values.Some of the values are bold,risk-taking and loyalty. I thought it was bold because in the novel,Sarny (a young slave) has been a slave since she was born.She never learned how to read or write,been abused and worked for days.This is representing bold because although she was treated terribly,she is still standing up and trying so hard to get away form the plantation after what they did to her.She never gave up on herself and kept on trying. I thought the novel was risk-taking as well.I thought it was risk-taking because the slave master abuse many slaves.For an example,the slave master was chasing Sarny because he caught her doing something.(Writing) Sarny ran way because she was afraid she will get hit. Sarny ran to Mammy to hide form the slave master.The slave master chose to punish Mammy so Sarny would feel guilty for not telling him what she was doing.The slave master got Mammy naked and hanged her.The only thing the other slaves can do is not to look at her to show respect for her body.This is risk-taking because Mammy risked her life to go through punishments so Sarny won't get hurt. I also thought the book was representing loyalty. I thought it was representing loyalty because for an example,Mammy took a terrible punishment just to protect Sarny.Another example is that NightJoh (an older man slave) escaped from the plantation but then comes back so he can help Sarny how to read and write.All of these examples are representing loyalty because both older people risk their life to help another one. These are the three reasons why the book was representing many values.Some of the values were bold,risk-taking and loyalty.Thank you for reading my essay.
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