Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 1658
Teaching Tool
Overall rating 
 
3.7
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
3.0
The Slave Dancer was the Newbery Award winner for 1974; it's an old school book, written in an old school style. Therefore, for people who love modern style writing that's quick or not too prosy, this one probably isn't the one for them. It miiiight not hold the attention of an action-driven kid who is more interested in racing around the yard than reading, but I think it is a good teaching tool or a launching point so that parents or teachers could talk to kids about slavery, slave ships and the Middle Passage. I think it's also a good novel to give kids who might be interested in learning more about slavery.

This is the story of Jessie, a boy musician who plays his fife for the wrong people and ends up getting shanghaied. He winds up on a slave ship, where he is forced to play his fife while the slaves are on deck so they can dance for exercise. It's also the story of the slaves who are forced aboard the ship as prisoners and property and made to endure a unimaginably awful journey. The pain and suffering and madness of this book is enough to make the hairs on the back of your head stand up. The men who work the slave ship are a tough and terrible lot, and their captain is practically psychotic. They are senselessly violent and few, if any, have any moral qualms about their line of work. The slaves...you can feel their anguish. Many of the scenes are disturbing; they stayed with me long after I finished the book. From the point in the story where the slaves are loaded onto the ship to the point onward is especially difficult to get through due to the exhibitions of cruelty. There is a hopeful ending for more than one character at the end of the book. I thought it was a weighty and powerful read, but it might go over the heads of younger kids. I think middle school/high school would be the most appropriate age group for this book.
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May 08, 2013
This sounds like a good book
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