Newbery Medal Winner: A young Louisiana boy faces the horrors of slavery when he is kidnapped and forced to work on a slave ship in this iconic novel.
Thirteen-year-old Jessie Bollier earns a few pennies playing his fife on the docks of New Orleans. One night, on his way home, a canvas is thrown over his head and he’s knocked unconscious. When he wakes up, Jessie finds himself aboard a slave ship, bound for Africa. There, the Moonlight picks up ninety-eight black prisoners, and the men, women, and children, chained hand and foot, are methodically crammed into the ship’s hold. Jessie’s job is to provide music for the slaves to dance to on the ship’s deck—not for amusement but for exercise, as a way to to keep their muscles strong and their bodies profitable.
Over the course of the long voyage, Jessie grows more and more sickened by the greed of the sailors and the cruelty with which the slaves are treated. But it’s one final horror, when the Moonlight nears her destination, that will change Jessie forever.
Set during the middle of the nineteenth century, when the illegal slave trade was at its height, The Slave Dancer not only tells a vivid and shocking story of adventure and survival, but depicts the brutality of slavery with unflinching historical accuracy.
“Spellbinding . . . will horrify as well as fascinate.” —School Library Journal, starred review
“Movingly and realistically presents one of the most gruesome chapters of history.” —Booklist, starred review
“Each of the sailors is sharply individualized, the inhuman treatment of the captives is conveyed straight to the nose and stomach rather than the bleeding heart, and the scenes in which Jessie is forced to play his fife to ‘dance the slaves’ for their morning exercise become a haunting, focusing image for the whole bizarre undertaking.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Moving, harrowing, and, unfortunately, entirely believable.” —Historical Novel Society
“Brutal and brilliant.” —The Paris Review
Praise for Paula Fox
“Consistently excellent.” —The New York Times
“The greatest writer of her generation.” —Jonathan Franzen
“One of America’s most talented writers.” —Publishers Weekly
Paula Fox was a notable figure in contemporary American literature. She earned wide acclaim for her children’s books, as well as for her novels and memoirs for adults. Born in New York City on April 22, 1923, her early years were turbulent. She moved from upstate New York to Cuba to California, and from one school to another. An avid reader at a young age, her love of literature sustained her through the difficulties of an unsettled childhood. At first, Fox taught high school, writing only when occasion permitted. Soon, however, she was able to devote herself to writing full-time, but kept a foot in the classroom by teaching creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania, New York University, and the State University of New York.
In her novels for young readers, Fox fearlessly tackles difficult topics such as death, race, and illness. She has received many distinguished literary awards including a Newbery Medal for The Slave Dancer (1974), a National Book Award for A Place Apart (1983), and a Newbery Honor for One-Eyed Cat (1984). Worldwide recognition for Fox’s contribution to literature for children came with the presentation of the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1978.
Fox’s novels for adults have also been highly praised. Her 2002 memoir, Borrowed Finery, received the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir, and in 2013 the Paris Review presented her with the Hadada Award, honoring her contribution to literature and the writing community. In 2011, Fox was inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame.
Fox passed away in 2017 at the age of ninety-three.
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