Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Slave Dancer” as Want to Read:
The Slave Dancer
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Slave Dancer

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  8,247 Ratings  ·  372 Reviews
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, brutal ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published September 16th 2008 by Aladdin (first published 1973)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Slave Dancer, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Stacy Renee (LazyDayLit)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
O. Ouellette
Mar 09, 2012 O. Ouellette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all children, people who want to read more than just fluff
Book readers everywhere, please stay your hand (ALWAYS) and think for a moment before denouncing any book as "horrible," "uninteresting," or rating it a 1 or 2, regardless of your age or experience with reading. It is a shame that this book gets such low ratings from some just because its subject matter is serious or because the book itself is deemed "boring" or "not your thing." I see a terrible lack of patience, perseverance and open-mindedness in so many readers, young and old, and that is ve ...more
Kyle Pratt
Jan 25, 2013 Kyle Pratt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adolescent or young adult readers
Shelves: fiction
I teach reading to both Junior and Senior high school students so I am always looking for superior adolescent literature. The Slave Dancer, by Paula Fox, winner of the Newbery Medal for most distinguished contribution to American literature for children in 1974, is a good choice.

The novel, set in 1840, revolves around Jesse Boller, a teenage boy from New Orleans. Because Jessie enjoys playing the fife, he is kidnapped and forced to work on The Moonlight, a slave ship. His job is to play the fife
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Slave Dancer, Paula Fox
عنوان: برده رقصان؛ نویسنده: پائولا فاکس؛ مترجم: مصطفی رهبر؛ تهران، کانون پرورش فکری؛ 1359 در 204 ص؛ چاپ دوم اردیبهشت 1361؛ چاپ دیگر: چاپ سوم در 195 ص؛ چاپ چهارم 1366؛ چاپ پنجم مهر 1368؛ شابک: 9644323521؛ چاپ هفتم 1382؛ موضوع: داستان برده داری و برده فروشی از نویسندگان امریکایی قرن 20 م
فهرست: فرمان 5؛ مهتاب 19؛ طنابهای دکل 47؛ خلیج بنین 65؛ نیکلاس اسپارک روی آب راه میرود 89؛ مرد اسپانیایی 113؛ اشتباه بن استاوت 141؛ پیرمرد 167؛ بازگشت به خانه و بعد 185؛
با این واژه ها آ
Jul 31, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chapter-books
A powerful historical fiction book...maybe a little too intense for younger readers, but highly educational and masterfully written. The Newbery is well-deserved. I don't think many elementary-aged students would be able to grasp fully the complexity of the characters and their relationships in this novel--Fox explores the dark depths of human nature and human psychology--but I'm so glad she didn't give us a watered-down version of this period in American history.
Linda Lipko
Jul 13, 2011 Linda Lipko rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This 1974 Newbery Medal award winning book is by far the most compelling, graphic and intensely dark Newbery I've read. Having said this, you may wonder why I highly recommend this dark tale full of vivid, violent details.

The answer is simply this: Slavery was abhorrently wrong and this book captures the gruesomeness of the slave trade without stopping to the real temptation of pounding home a truth to the point wherein the reader closes the pages. Never exploiting the power of the evil, but hon
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley and Open Road Media.

The best new television show for the 2015-2016 year is Underground. Shown on the WGN network, the series is about a group of slaves in the 1850s trying to escape. At times the show, as most television shows do, stretch the bounds of believability (how is one slave such a good shot despite never using a gun before, would those two people really be brothers, and how is that geography working for you?), yet the show is one that everyone should watc
Dec 09, 2008 Erin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I probably shouldn't even say I read this book, because I got only to page 78 and then gave up. I have spent the last 5 years in children's libraries looking at books trying to decide what to read and/or purchase. I always thought this looked like a good one, after all, it is a Newberry Medal book. I picked this up because my daughter was studying the Transatlantic Slave Trade in school and I wanted a novel to read about the same topic. We began to read it together, aloud. The first two chapters ...more
Althea Ann
This one was important to me, as a child.
Beyond presenting historical facts, I felt that it really let me understand the true horror of the slave trade.
Phil Jensen
Sep 29, 2013 Phil Jensen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An abducted ship's boy endures a harrowing and brutal voyage on a slave ship during the infamous Middle Passage. The characters are subtly drawn and complexly ambiguous. The morality, legality, and business aspects of slaving are explained. I loved the intelligence and pacing of this novel.

The question is: Who would put this book in their classroom? It's so horrific and realistic that anyone younger than a 7th grader would get nightmares from it. Furthermore, it's the most recent Newbery I can t
Jack. S
Jan 29, 2013 Jack. S rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recently I read the book The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox. I think that this book was very good in it's own way. In social studies we learned about slaves 2 chapters ago and I think it's interesting that this described what they went through perfectly. Although I don't recommend it's cussing (the n word) over and over and it's gruesomeness. I found it interesting because I never imagined the pain someone can go through by the hands of another person. They also tell you something you (or just me) ne ...more
More mature topic, but a tale that should be told! This one flows along following the life of Jesse Boller a young boy of 13 who is kidnapped to play his fife on a slave ship.
Sep 13, 2012 Josiah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"You have no idea how much you can get used to".

―Benjamin Stout, The Slave Dancer, P. 24

One just gets a feeling about certain books. Even before reading them, it's as if one can already sense the magnitude of the story, can tell that the reading experience about to be had is so big and important that simply by encountering it firsthand, one has charted new personal territory, has plugged into a culture of great literature that extends back through human history further than we know. The Slave
Jan 21, 2011 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mature 13+
Shelves: newbery-medal
Of all the Newbery's I've read so far I have to say this was the most disturbing and emotionally difficult to read. Rightly so considering the subject matter. It is a powerful portrayal of the cruelty on the part of a ship captain and the pain and suffering the captives, mainly, but also the crew had to endure.

"You'll see some bad things, but if you didn't see them, they'd still be happening so you might as well."

"As I sat there on the narrow little bench, breathing in the close clay-like smell
Mar 27, 2012 Handan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jessie Bollier lives in New Orleans with his mother and sickly sister in 1840 and earns pennies playing his pipe on the docks to amuse sailors. While walking home one evening, he is ambushed and kidnapped, taken through the swamplands and aboard a ship, The Moonlight. Aboard ship he learns the vessel is bound for the coast of Africa then to Cuba; The Moonlight is a slave ship. For the first half of his journey, Jessie adjusts to living as a captive working as the lowest member of the crew. H
Oct 27, 2014 Janelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, newbery
This won the Newbery Medal in 1974 and is by far the heaviest novel I've read in my still-in-progress exploration of 1970s Newbery winners.

The protagonist is Jessie, a white boy who is kidnapped from his home in 1840s New Orleans to be part of the crew on a slave ship. He is taken because he can play the fife, and someone is needed to provide music for the slaves to dance to during their journey (to keep up their health and reduce the appalling death rate). It takes Jessie a while to realize the
Aug 28, 2014 Annette rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one.
This has got to be the most depressing book I have ever read. I had to slog through an incredible amount of graphic violence and senseless brutality before the main character encountered even a scrap of kindness. The author doesn't candy coat life on a slave ship in the least. She doesn't spare her readers any details of what life was like for the crew or the slaves. I don't know why this book won the Newbery, it isn't even appropriate for children. I could see how maybe a high school history te ...more
Mar 16, 2014 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fox, Paula; Keith, Eros; The Slave Dancer, Bradbury Press,1973, historical fiction, 5th - 8th, rate: 4.5, lexile 970L

The story is set in 1840. The main character, Jessie, is about 13 years old and can play the fife. One day he is kidnapped and it taken aboard a slave ship. His role is to play the fife for the slaves they capture so the slaves will stay in “shape” and look decent to sell. Jessie witnesses what the slaves have to endure and the horrible conditions they are forced to live in.

I rate
Jesse Bollier is a thirteen-year-old boy living in New Orleans in 1840 when slave traders hear him playing his fife on the wharf. They kidnap Jesse and take him on their ship The Moonlight, where he is to play his fife for exercise periods for the slaves so that they will be in good physical condition when they reach the U.S. and can be sold at auction. Jesse is horrified at the treatment of the slaves and the behaviors of the ship’s crew. He is especially aware of a young boy about his own age ...more
A novel written decades ago by an author I've not heard of til now but apparently she was very talented.

I have to agree. She wanted to write about the actual transporting of the slaves back in the slave trading days from Africa to the Caribbean and US. Using a kidnapped boy as the protagonist gave her a good angle to try and capture the horrors of that time.

He was kidnapped for his fife playing abilities... because once the slaves are on board, they bring them up periodically to "dance". To keep
May 15, 2016 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shanghaied to play his fife to make slaves dance aboard a slaver, 13 year old Jesse Bollier learns first hand the horrors of the slave trade – the merciless packing in of these human beings below deck; the little food and water; the killing of the sick captured Africans – but befriends a boy his age.

Though they cannot understand one another’s language, they form a bond especially when the slave ship founders in a storm and only Jesse and his new friend, Ras, escape.

This is a book for all ages, r
Jan 18, 2017 Courtney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. Jessie is a 13 year old boy who plays the fife for money to help support his mother but is abducted by sailors who had gave him tips earlier that day. He finds himself aboard The Moonlight which is a slave ship on its way to Africa to pick up slaves. He finds that his duty aboard the ship is to "dance" the slaves in the morning once they pick them up. Jessie is forced to face the truly harsh reality of the slave trade and how there are people th ...more
May 08, 2016 Gavin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Book Report
By Gavin Anderson

I read The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox. The author was born on April 22, 1923. In 1978 she won the Hans Christian Andersen Award. The genre is of this book is Historical Fiction. The sub-genre is slavery. The narrator is the main character Jessie Bollier. The point of view is 1st person. I know because we know what Jessie is thinking and he says for example “I hate Stout”. This affects the story by giving a lot less information making the story a lot more mystery about
Jan 02, 2017 Deborah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a bit surprised that this was written for a "YOUTH" audience. I would suggest that if a youth was to read this book, he or she, would need to have a "maturity" about them. One cannot sugar-coat the events surrounding the "slave" trade. It was CRUEL and definitely...INHUMANE...The author, Paula Fox, did a decent job in describing historical realities...though, I believe, played it down a bit, since it was geared towards "youth" readers... There is a line in this book (page 28 in my copy) th ...more
Raven Ranger
Nov 11, 2016 Raven Ranger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's an emotional and heart-wrenching book that truly dives into the horror of the slave trade. Describing in detail the passage that starts it all. Follow Jessie Bollier through his experiences and his terrible journey.
The Slave Dancer is a novel about a boy named Jessie and how we was captured in order to play his instruments for a ship full of pirates. The ship named "The Moonlight" takes a journey to Africa to pick up slaves in order to sell them once they get back to the US. Jessie's playing is used to keep the slaves dancing in order for them to stay strong and be more of a profit for the pirates.
I would use this book in multiple vocab lessons along with many social studies lesson including History of th
Newberry winner. Dark & horrible story about a slaver's ship, told from the perspective of a 13 year old white boy. Jessie was kidnapped to serve on a slave ship, and his experience as a victim of & witness to the crimes of slavers help illustrate how awful the trade of enslaved people was. A very difficult read to suggest to a older kid or young teen, but an important one.
Jan 12, 2017 Justinbrown89 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quick read, slow start at first but gripping as I became woven into the tale.
Torgy Torgensen
Dec 19, 2011 Torgy Torgensen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Slave Dancer
By: Tyler Torgensen
The Slave Dancer was a very interesting book. It tries to capture the feeling of what slavery was like back in the 1800's and it did it so good that it earned a Newberry Medal Award for it. The writer and publishing company of this book took a risk by publishing a book about slavery because it could be banned from certain countries or it could start controversial stuff because slavery is a touchy subject to talk about. The good news is that this book was most
Jan 12, 2015 Krista rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: awesome-audios
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tze Min
Dec 10, 2015 Tze Min rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this as a kid once, a few years back, and I remember I hadn't liked it. I had found the writing to be dry and boring, and I couldn't understand much of what was happening, yet somehow it was particularly memorable. Thus, I decided to pick it up again.

It was a much better experience this time round. The author clearly did her research, and put in effort in to give us a glimpse of the horrors of slave trade through the eyes of Jessie. The writing was good, and it set the atmosphere for the
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • ...And Now Miguel
  • Dobry
  • Tales From Silver Lands
  • The Dark Frigate
  • Gay Neck: The Story of a Pigeon
  • Waterless Mountain
  • Shadow Of A Bull
  • Daniel Boone
  • The White Stag
  • Roller Skates
  • A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers
  • M.C. Higgins, the Great
  • Shen of the Sea: Chinese Stories for Children
  • Miss Hickory
  • Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze
  • Secret of the Andes
  • Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women
  • Rifles for Watie
Paula Fox is an American author of novels for adults and children and two memoirs. Her novel The Slave Dancer (1973) received the Newbery Medal in 1974; and in 1978, she was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal. More recently, A Portrait of Ivan won the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis in 2008.

A teenage marriage produced a daughter, Linda, in 1944. However, given the tumultuous relationship wit
More about Paula Fox...

Share This Book

“You'll see some bad things, but if you didn't see them, they'd still be happening.” 31 likes
More quotes…