37. The Slave Dancer

The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
Illustrations by Eros Keith

Pages: 176
Finished: Feb. 19, 2008
Reason for Reading: Newbery Project.
First Published: 1973
Genre: children, YA, historical fiction
Rating: 3/5

First Sentence:

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

Comments: Thirteen-year-old Jessie Bollier is kidnapped by sailors and taken to work upon their ship. Jessie learns that the ship is a slaver and is going to Africa to pick up slaves to take back to Cuba. Jessie's purpose on the ship is to be the 'slave dancer', he will play his flute, while the slaves are made to dance so as to keep their muscles fit. This was an okay book. The first half of the book is an intriguing look at life at sea and the characters are interesting. The second half of the book deals with the slave trade and the horrors of such are not sugar-coated and it is a compelling read. However, the writing just didn't grab me all the much. The characters lacked vitality. It was interesting but not one that will leave a lasting impression. Also, I must say I was not impressed with the illustrations at all. They are full of shadows, lack details and very vague. Ultimately, a good, but not great, book.


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