Wolf by the Ears
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Wolf by the Ears

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  1,902 ratings  ·  97 reviews
Harriet Hemings has always been happy in the comfortable, protected world that is Monticello. She's been well treated there; no one has ever called her a slave. But that is what she is, a slave of a man who wrote the Declaration of Independence. And there are rumors that she might be more than Thomas Jefferson's slave - she might be his daughter.

Now Harriet has to make a c

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Paperback, 272 pages
Published January 1st 1993 by Scholastic Paperbacks (first published April 1st 1991)
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Eden
Harriet Hemings is a slave of Thomas Jefferson's and has been all her life. But she's been well cared for, educated and not worked very hard. In a few short years she'll be 21 and that means she will be free. Harriet doesn't want to go, doesn't want to leave her home. How could she? She loves it there, but Harriet soon realizes taking her freedom will be for the best. And so she begins to prepare for her leaving when she turns 21.

This is a historical fiction book about Harriet Hemings, who histo...more
Ellen
Despite liking Time Enough for Drums and Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons, I could not trudge my whole way through Wolf by the Ears. In this book, Rinaldi attempts to tell the tale of Harriet Hemmings, presumed illegitimate daughter of Thomas Jefferson and one of his slaves, Sally. It seemed as if she tried too hard to dance around the controversy of Thomas Jefferson being a respected father of our country and yet a slave holder who apparently was an adulterer with his "servant." The book also...more
Leslie
This book is a historical fiction book about a slave girl, Harriet Hemmings, at Monticello (Thomas Jefferson's plantation). She is the slave daughter of Thomas Jefferson. (The author says that Thomas Jefferson had several children with a slave woman after his wife died, but I haven't looked into history to know if this is true or not.)

The author creates a very intersting character in Thomas Jefferson. He is portrayed as someone who does not like slavery or even believe in it, but he owns many s...more
Mara
Cover Blurb: It looks dated, the girl in the front does not at all look how I imagine Harriet. She looks more Hispanic or Latino descent than African; her features aren’t right.

What I Liked: Like all of Rinaldi’s female characters, Harriet is a strong protagonist, doesn’t have an attitude, is intelligent, and feminine without being weak. I was able to appreciate her struggle, thus her indecision didn’t get as annoying as it could have.

What I Disliked: While I liked Harriet well enough, she was p...more
Heather
Heather Stewart
Historical Fiction
This is the story of Harriet Hemings who believed she was the illegitimate child of Thomas Jefferson. She is a slave at Monticello but is treated very kindly by the “master”. Her mother will not say outright that he is their father. When Harriet turns 21 she will be given her freedom papers and allowed to leave there forever as a free woman. She doesn’t want to leave Monticello but she knows that if she stays and Mr. Jefferson dies she may be sold and continue to...more
Bridget R. Wilson
Written before the conclusive DNA testing that proved Thomas Jefferson did have children with his slave Sally Hemings, Rinaldi's book explores the struggle of Sally's daughter Harriet to understand who she is. She is a light-skinned slave. There are rumors that the master is her father. Her freedom is guaranteed at age 21, but does she dare to take it? Her options are to stay on the plantation where she surely will be married to another slave, to leave the plantation as a free nigra, or to leave...more
Dawn
Meh. More of an 'I'm so bored, I just read every book fifty times and my room is clean and vacuumed and my schoolwork is done and my Spanish vocab is studied and I have no stories to invent and my friends are busy and my mom is working and it's raining so Ii have to stay inside and my brothers are programming and my sister is still brushing her hair and my piano practice is done and I've memorized Frozen and drawn portraits of random people and written in my journal and read the scriptures and s...more
Casey
Very well written and so sad that Harriet Hemings was treated as a slave though she was mostly white. It just shows how far the 'masters' of the time had convinced themselves that slavery was right. They were such hypocrites. Saying white blood was the best, while many of the white men were sleeping with their slaves and producing children who were a part of both worlds but belonging to neither. It's horrid.
But the book was great.
Jonathan Bradley
Um, it was good. It felt much quieter than the other books I've read; in terms of plot it was very placid, with almost all the action taking place inside Harriet's head. This was a feature of A Break With Charity, as well, but it shares with Time Enough For Drums an ever-precipitating social crisis unfolding in the background.

It would be worthwhile, I think, to read this alongside The Hemingses of Monticello — which I haven't read. At times I found myself unable to trust the history quite so re...more
Linda
This book is about the daughter of Sally Hemmings, who was believed to be the black mistress of Thomas Jefferson. The interesting thing about that is Sally was nearly white, and her children had seven out of eight grandparents white and one black. Enough in that day to declare yourself white. But they were owned and slaves. Thomas Jefferson felt torn about slaverey, hence the title of the book, I like this story, told from Harriet, Sally's only surviving daughter. Ann Rinaldi based the story as...more
Kristen
While I can’t say that Rinaldi’s book hit my “favorites” list, I did thoroughly enjoy it, and was compelled to get to the last page. This historical fiction novel follows the story of Harriet Hemmings, the supposed illegitimate daughter of Thomas Jefferson. Throughout the book we see her struggle with her identity, not knowing if Thomas Jefferson is really her father, and not feeling like she fits fully into the white or nigra world. Most of the book focuses around Harriet herself, as opposed to...more
Rebecca Radnor
Harriet and her siblings are the children of Sally Hemings a slave, yet hold a special place in the household of Thomas Jefferson. None of the Hemings siblings consider themselves to be truly slaves: all are educated by a private tutor, they are given only light duties, they have full access to Jefferson's library, and all have been promised their freedom when they turn 21. They know that this is because they are probably Jefferson's children, and yet he never publicly recognizes them as such an...more
Books Kids Like
Harriet Hemings lives in the comfortable and protected world of Monticello. She is the daughter of Thomas Jefferson’s slave, Sally Hemings. Many suspect that Harriet and four of her siblings are Thomas Jefferson’s children as they all have red hair and very light skin. The eldest, Thomas, has already left the plantation and passed himself off as a white man. Beverly will be the next to leave. When Jefferson refuses to send him to the university, Beverly steals a horse and runs away. Harriet know...more
Gale
ESCAPING THE VELVET TRAP

Narrated in the first person by Harriet, daughter of the slave,
Sally Hemings of Monticello, this story presents serious historical fiction at the YA level. Meticulously researched by author Rinaldi--who excels in this genre, the book was inspired by a quote from the author of the acclaimed Declaration of Independence. Jefferson himself agonized over the institution of Slavery, describing it as a wolf by the ears, which the country could not handle safely, yet without wh...more
Libby
My rating of this book is probably a little skewed because I read 'Jefferson's Sons' first, so I had that author's view of things and the personalities she attributed to each character already in my mind as I read this book. So as I was reading I oftentimes found myself thinking that this author had it wrong or was making a mistake when in all actuality nobody really knows - that's why it's historical 'fiction'. It was worth reading though. A very interesting look into the life at Monticello.
Regina
This is an interesting and entirely fictitious look at the Hemmings family and Thomas Jefferson's views on slavery. It's told in diary format by our narrator Harriet, who may or may not be the enslaved daughter of Thomas Jefferson. (I think this was written before the DNA testing was done-most historians now agree that he was very likely the father of Harriet and her siblings.) I felt that it handled some complex moral issues well without being judgmental or preachy. Harriet is there to narrate...more
Gretchen Widdison
This book took me over a year to finish. I bought this as one of my classroom checkout books. I thought the concept was interesting, and it brought up some interesting historical facts. However the book wasn't very exciting. I kept waiting for something to happen, which it never did. The book focuses on the main characters internal conflicts and deals a lot with her being wishy washy about her feelings and her desires for her future. When it finally got to the part I was waiting for the book end...more
Kellyann
Historical novel about a daughter of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. I love the way Rinaldi explores the various options available to mixed-race folks (passing or not passing, being part of a supportive community or moving away to seek financial and social upward-mobility) without judging. Also just really good psychologically; imagine what it would be like to be the daughter of Thomas Jefferson, but also legally his slave! Rinaldi also illustrates some of the contradictions of Jefferson: he...more
Ellen
This is the first book by Ann Rinaldi that I have ever finished. I love history but usually her writing style is not as enjoyable to me.
This is the story of Harriet Hemmings the daughter of Sally Hemmings. This is the story of her transition from slave to when she leaves. I'll be honest. While Ann Rinaldi has very creative ideas, usually her books are boring to me because the action, romance and anything else that I really like is almost no existent. This book is no exception. The only thing th...more
Linda
Harriet Hemings and her brothers, children of Sally Hemings, a slave at Monticello, have reason to believe that their father was Thomas Jefferson himself (a question which has been dealt with in biographies and novels before). This is Harriet's story of her years between age 19 and 21, when she ponders whether to stay at Monticello, which she loves, as a slave, or to be given her freedom and to pass as a white woman. Ann Rinaldi writes historical novels for middle/high school ages; this one was...more
Children's Literature Project
Grade Level Equivalent: 6

Summary: This historical fiction story focuses on the life of slave, Harriet Hemings. Rumors fly throughout Monticello that Harriet is the daughter of her master, Thomas Jefferson. Harriet must decide if she takes her chances and runs away to obtain freedom, or stay with her mother and the loving home she's only known her entire life.

Lesson Integration: This story can be used to explore the controversial aspects of slavery. This theme can be integrated into the Civil Wa...more
Infogirl84
This was the first book that I read by Ann Rinaldi. She is a great historical fiction writer for the young adult crowd.
Rachael
Feb 26, 2008 Rachael rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anybody who loves history
Recommended to Rachael by: no one I found it under my mom's bed (in the bins where we keep
Ok so it is really good. And mostly true too, well I guess that's the meaning of "historical fiction". It's about ,Harriet Hemmings the daughter of Sally Hemmings who was Thomas Jefferson's "mistress". (because it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry)The stuff you learn about slavery is good, and it really shows how this girl must have felt- not knowing who her father was, but yet having a man TREAT her like his daughter but not being able to tell the world about it. The only bad part abou...more
Sarah
I re-read this book recently, and was a bit dissapointed. I remembered it fondly from when I was a teenager and expected to enjoy it just as much as an adult. Reading it now, the writing seemed flat and the view of slavery seemed not glorified persay, but not entirely true to reality. Perhaps it is that I am use to reading adult novels that offer a more harsh description of slavery and the Civil War, but I'm not sure that I beleive it being a novel for young adults should detract from it's need...more
Maya Rock
This is one of Ann Rinaldi's better books. Thomas Jefferson's mulatta daughter must decide whether to join the white world or not. Joining the white world means leaving her family behind. Unlike that other woman's incredibly romantic more famous Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemings book, I feel this book tries to keep it real.

You have to wonder what is going on w/this guy though to take up w/a 14 year old girl and then proceed to have so many kids with her and be in the political spotlight. I guess fa...more
Lori
Story of Harriet Hemmings, believed to be daughter of Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemmings. Many opinions and beliefs still exist among their family members and even experts, but, I am drawn to learn more about their family story. I felt this was a respectful narrative of both sides of the story.

Great facts of the time period effectively woven into a narrative. I didn't recall many of the details from my first reading in 7th grade, but really enjoyed it this time around. I'm drawn to l...more
Diane Bell
A good, well-researched story of the daughter of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. It is, of course, a historical fiction book of necessity, since there are no known facts about the Sally Hemings children, except that they existed and did cross over into the white world. I liked how it talked about the conflict in all of the characters, and it was interesting to learn more about Thomas Jefferson and his struggle to find a resolution between justice and slavery. Well written, with good characte...more
Al Cormier
I finished recording this book last night. I recorded it cold, since my program manager made it a rush job, so I was reading as I was recording. I thought it was a very interesting and well researched offering of historical fiction. It presented a side of slavery that has been pretty much swept under the rug. And the author used a famous controversial family name to bring out the very real problems associated with the relationships between slaves and their masters.
Marné Yates
I really love this book by Ann Rinaldi. She inserts the reader subconsciously into all of her writing, I think. In this tale, I was taken to Jefferson's Monticello and I saw the gardens from a different point of view - that of his daughter and slave, Harriet. Her journey to find herself and who she needs to become is one that I won't ever forget.

Warnings: The use of the word "lordy", one scene where a drunk man tries to "put his hands on" a slave.
Carleen Hyatte
i loved this book because of the history that is involed in it
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Ann Rinaldi (b. August 27, 1934, in New York City) is a young adult fiction author. She is best known for her historical fiction, including In My Father's House, The Last Silk Dress, An Acquaintance with Darkness, A Break with Charity, and Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons. She has written a total of forty novels, eight of which were listed as notable by the ALA. In 2000, Wolf by the Ears was lis...more
More about Ann Rinaldi...
A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials Time Enough for Drums Girl in Blue The Fifth of March: A Story of the Boston Massacre The Last Silk Dress

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