Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book Review: The Slave Dancer

The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
YA Historical Fiction
You might like this book if: You make a habit of reading award-winners (this one has a Newberry Medal), you enjoy historical fiction, survival and adventure tales, or are just interested in another perspective of the era of slavery in the US.

This is the story of Jessie Bollier, a 13 year-old living in New Orleans in 1840.  He is shanghaied onto a slave ship and forced to play his fife to "dance" the slaves for exercise. 

This book is a compelling look at the slave trade that is also written in the style of an adventure story to capture young readers.  In the end, the author does not spare the reader the realities of life on a slave ship and manages to convey the pall of absolute evil that hung from every line of the vessel Moonlight. She successfully represents the utter, unnatural wrongness of trading humans and "selling them like a piece of cloth." Nothing was right for Jessie and it is a dark journey indeed.

I thought this was deserving of its' 1973 Newberry Medal. The writing is rich, evocative and poetic at times.  The imagery is vivid and the characters believable.  Read it with your kids if you want to remind or teach them about this time in history and what we can and must learn from it.

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