Monday, August 8, 2011

Bibliophile's Corner

The Slave Dancer
by Paula Fox

Flap Copy description:
Jessie Bollier was thirteen when he was kidnapped, bound in canvas, and carried across the ocean to the coast of Africa.
One day in 1840, Jessie was living with his mother and sister in New Orleans, where he earned pennies, playing his fife on the docks. The next day, he with his fife was on board The Moonlight, a slave ship, with a hateful duty awaiting him. The making of music seemed to Jessie to have no rightful place in the business of trading rum for black men, women, and children; of driving them through the dangerous heaving surf to a long boat; of chaining and bringing them to a waiting ship, and carrying them to a place where if they survived, they would be sold like cloth. But Jessie - his heart sinking - played his fife. He had to, for Captain Cawthorne would have the slaves "danced" to keep their muscles strong, their bodies profitable.
And the men of the ship accepted the custom. They would get their share of the profit, and so did not heed the horrors of the trade which every day grew more vivid, more inescapable to Jessie.
The Slave Dancer is Jessie's story of his voyage, of four months of his life and near death, in the unforgettable company of Purvis, Grime, and Stout of the crew and young Ras of the cargo.

My thoughts:
The Slave Dancer is the deeply moving story of a young boy, who after being kidnapped, must scratch and claw for every shred of courage he can muster, just to survive the voyage of the slave ship, The Moonlight.
Although this text is for middle grade readers, the depth of human experience and emotion would captivate adult readers as well. The author, Paula Fox, won the Newbery Medal Award in 1974 for this piercing and poignant tale.
(The treatment of African slaves is extremely graphic - I would not recommend this book for readers under ten years of age.)

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