Monday, December 23, 2013

MMGM Newbery Classic: The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox

Originally published 1973
Published: September 16th 2008
Genre: Middle grade, historical fiction
Publisher: Aladdin
Themes: history, slavery, Civil War, pirates, fear, struggle
Add it on: Goodreads, / Amazon / Barnes And Noble/ *Indie Bound*

About The Book: One day, thirteen-year-old Jessie Bollier is earning pennies playing his fife on the docks of New Orleans; the next, he is kidnapped and thrown aboard a slave ship, where his job is to provide music while shackled slaves "dance" to keep their muscles strong and their bodies profitable. As the endless voyage continues, Jessie grows increasingly sickened by the greed, brutality, and inhumanity of the slave trade, but nothing prepares him for the ultimate horror he will witness before his nightmare ends -- a horror that will change his life forever.

First Line: In a hinged wooden box upon the top of which was carved a winged fish, my mother kept her tools of her trade.

Great Description: "I ducked and heard a sharp chuckle, its human familiarity overcoming the sound of the speaking ship, the creaking masts, the great thunk and slap of the sails, the breathing sea." (47)

What Other's Are Saying: "Fox has woven a spellbinding tale of suspense and survival that will horrify as well as fascinate..."—Library Journal (starred review)

"A story that movingly and realistically presents one of the most gruesome chapters of history, with all the violence, inhuman conditions, and bestial aspects of human nature -- exposed but never exploited in Fox's graphic, documentary prose."—Booklist (starred review)

Bloggers Weigh In:

What I Thought: I am currently reading several books by Paula Fox. One of the things I am admiring about her writing is how she is able to pack so much meaning into a single sentence. One of my favorite lines conveys an image, much like poetry. "The birds disappeared, their last cries lingering in my ears the way a strands of light cling briefly to the masts after the sun has vanished." I not only hear the birds in the distance, I see the sky and that I am standing on the deck of a ship. Amazing, writing. No wonder it won the Newbery Award in 1974. 

About The Author: Paula Fox

I write to find out. I write to discover, over 
and over again, my connections with myself, 
with others. Each book deepens the question. 
It does not answer it.   —Paula Fox

Who: "In the past few years Paula Fox has been rediscovered as the author of six novels, at least two of which, Desperate Characters and The Widow's Children - both published in Britain for the first time this month - have a cliam to a place on the list of 20th-century American classics. Fox is already well-known as the author of two dozen much-loved and generously garlanded children's novels. Yet until they were recently reissued in the US with specially commissioned introductions and much fanfare, the last of her adult novels had been out of print since 1992. Most of the earlier books had been unavailable for decades. Jonathan Franzen has, notoriously, ranked her above Roth, Bellow and 
Updike and others have compared her with Kafka, Chekhov and Flaubert." —The Guardian

Paula Fox is my current woman author of study. I am reading her memoir and best known novel.

What Paula Fox books have you read?


  1. Thanks for telling me about this book and this author. I don't think I've read any of her books. I will be sure to check this out.

  2. I have heard a lot about her, but never read her. You are right: her language (as quoted) is exquisite.


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