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Nightjohn (Sarny #1)

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  3,828 Ratings  ·  677 Reviews
"To know things, for us to know things, is bad for them. We get to wanting and when we get to wanting it's bad for them. They thinks we want what they got . . . . That's why they don't want us reading." -- Nightjohn

"I didn't know what letters was, not what they meant, but I thought it might be something I wanted to know. To learn."--Sarny

Sarny, a female slave at the Waller
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published January 1st 1993 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mr. Z
Feb 25, 2009 Mr. Z rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For such a short book, this story packs a powerful punch! Yes, in today's world, there is still racism and rampant unfairness as it relates to the color of one's skin. Many kids already know this based on their personal experiences and observations. While today's world still needs some fixing, this story will shock students into the even-uglier realities kids and adults of color faced during a time in which slavery was perfectly legal. This story tells one girl's nightmare of living on a slavery ...more
Jun 07, 2016 Braden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book, even though it was short, it had a lot of meaning and taught you what your experiences's would have been like and how you would have lived. Good Read:)
Oct 27, 2014 Mariah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was great!
Jul 04, 2016 Hilary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books where you think, "Why is this marketed to children?" and have to remind yourself that if children suffered through it, others can learn about it.

Twelve-year old Sarny is a slave, and the white man who owns her and the others is callous and brutal. Paulsen doesn't gloss over anything, whether separation of families, the use of "breeders" or the casual whippings and maltreatment that was handed out at the time. He packs a lot into those 112 pages as Sarny begins the most
Gary Paulsen's Nightjohn gives readers a black and white look at the extreme cruelty and racial discriminatory of the 1850's. The vivid description of the hardships of the slaves on the Waller plantation was a real eye opener. The way Paulsen described the severe treatments and living conditions of the black plantation workers sent chills down my spine and set a rage deep in my heart. However, the actions of an unusual character provided a ray of hope into not just the other slaves but also the ...more
Beck D.
Jul 28, 2015 Beck D. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nightjohn by Gary Paulson was an interesting read. This book challenged my thoughts and made me think about racism today. Although often invisible to some, it's still alive and kicking. Seen not only on TV and interviews, it also happens right under our noses. Recently, studies have shown that police violence is aimed more at people of color than at others. This discrimination shouldn't still exist today.
Back to the book. Overall the read was very short and I feel like some of the characters wer
Jul 11, 2010 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Snapshot: Nightjohn is a story about a slave named John and a twelve year old girl named Sarny. Nightjohn is an unusual slave for he knows how to read and he knows that they are bound by the words the white masters write on paper. One day John arrives to a new plantation and his new master tries to subdue him with no avail. Sarny observes this beautiful black man and immediately realizes that he is different. For a bit of tabacco John teaches Sarny how to read.

Hook: Nightjohn will interest stud
Arielle Banks
Mar 25, 2013 Arielle Banks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Genre: realistic fiction
Tags: history, slavery, african-american, troubled times,etc.

My review: I have read this book many times before and it has never gotten boring or old to me. Even though I enjoy it very much, I will give it 4.5 out 5 stars in ratings. I say this because it is a very powerful book and it explicitly tells me what my ancestors and others went through during slavery. I found it emotional and moving at certain periods. I think me watching the movie also influences my judgement
Jun 25, 2015 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reading-ladder
There are two reasons I did not give this book five stars. While I liked the characters and storyline, it was a bit too gory for me. Since this book is about slavery, there are a lot of scenes about the disobeying slaves getting whipped and worse things. The author describes these things so vividly that I cringed when I read it. Also, the main character who narrates the story, Sarny, has bad grammar. It's because she was from a time period where slaves couldn't read or write very well, but it m ...more
Feb 08, 2011 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The slavery population in our American history suffered tremendous abuse. The story NightJohn written by Gary Paulsen was based on a true story and actually happened during a dark and horrifying time in our American culture. Although Paulsen was vague on dates and details, he did a good job of letting us know that the story’s backdrop setting was far too common in the south during the time of slavery. The book was an easy read but compact with a lot of information and facts on how slaves were tr ...more
Jun 24, 2015 Sydc24 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nightjohn was a short and easy book for me to read. I did like all of the detail, but the way it was written messed with me at first. I eventually got the hang of it though. I definitely enjoyed reading it. This book is about a slave named Sarny, and she has always wondered what it was like to read. Until Nightjohn came along. He was willing to teach Sarny, even if it means sacrificing his life. The only reason I didn't give this book a 5 star is because it was a little too gory for me but other ...more
Makenna Overweg
Jun 08, 2016 Makenna Overweg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nightjohn is a book that gives readers a whole new view on slavery. Readers will get an inside view of what really happened in the life of a plantation slave. They will hear about the endless beatings, the harassment, and cruelty that these people suffered simply because of the country they came from and the color of their skin. Nightjohn is a startling wake up call that you simply can't hit snooze on.
Emme McDowell
Sep 14, 2016 Emme McDowell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of Gary Paulsen’s best-selling books, Nightjohn, puts a huge impact on people around the world. The perspective of the book is from a 12-year old slave named Sarny. She gives an inside look on how it feels to be a slave with very detailed description and traumatic events. John is an unusual slave who knows how to read and write. Nightjohn is a valuable book because through all the agony and pain that the slaves go through, it makes you appreciate literacy. I agree with the author’s perspecti ...more
Abby Jaussi
Sep 14, 2016 Abby Jaussi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
When Sarny was a very young child her mother was sold into slavery right before her eyes, a very important memory; one that she can’t seem to recall. Since then, Sarny has grown, she loves to learn and she is given an opportunity when a slave named Nightjohn starts to teach her to read and write in trade for some tobacco. By gaining this knowledge,she is breaking a law that could get her killed. But for Sary any price, even death is one she is willing to pay to learn how to read. Though Gary Pau ...more
Tiana Schmitz
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Guadalupe Ramirez
Nightjohn is a story of a young 12 year old girl, Sarny, under 19th century slavery. The reader learns early in the novel that her birth mother was sold when she was 4 years old. She was raised by mammy, another slave whose job it was to care for all the young children. Sarny guesses she is 12 by marks on the wall mammy has made to measure all the youth in her care. She begins to worry about “troubles” and the possibility she will soon be used as a breeder. She is surrounded by tremendous pain, ...more
Mar 07, 2013 VJ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm reading my bookshelves in preparation of the purge. Thought I'd begin with something small and picked up Nightjohn.

It has been my regular reading experience to find the best reading in smaller texts. Ayn Rand was at her best in Anthem. Both Animal Farm and 1984 are brief, yet pack a punch.

Sarny lives in slavery and is, therefore, forbidden the knowledge of reading and writing. Nightjohn possesses this taboo knowledge, and insists that others in servitude should possess it as well, even thou
Joy H.
Mar 23, 2011 Joy H. marked it as watched-film-only  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: slavery
_Nightjohn_ by Gary Paulsen (1993)

Below is a copy of my post about this book at my group:
Sometimes I see a movie and learn later that it was adapted from a book. For example, last night I streamed the movie, "Nightjohn" (1996), from Netflix and now I see that is was adapted from Gary Paulsen's young adult book, Nightjohn.

At the book's Amazon page, Publishers Weekly says:
"Among the most powerful of P
Elizabeth Sciarra
I read this book when I was in middle school and did not really understand it until I just finished it as a college sophomore. At first the wording was a little tricky to understand, but as I got more in depth into the book and started picking up on how Gary Paulsen was trying to write it, it all began to click.

It only took me 45 minutes to read, but I enjoyed every second of it. When I first began reading the book I though the main character was a little boy, but as I continued, I found out it
Hadley Hatfield
Sep 14, 2016 Hadley Hatfield rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book Nightjohn that was written by Gary Paulsen. It was a Historical fiction book and it talked about how things where back then. It was very detailed and a little book. My favorite characters were Sarny, Mammy, Waller and Nightjohn. Sarny was the main character and she learned how to read from Nightjohn. It's against the law to read and write for blacks. I highly recommend this book to another reader.
Gary Paulsen's Nightjohn was a great read. While showing some aspects of what was going on during times of slavery, it puts the reader in the perspective of a slave. This allows the reader to get a better perspective of how hard slaves lived. This book was different from most books because of the way it stated different words. This however also made the book slightly confusing.
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Loved this story about a slave girl who learns how to read. We take reading and writing for granted these days. We've forgotten how it can open doors to a whole new world, how it can be empowering. I admire the courage of the slaves who risked death to learn to read and the teachers who risked death to teach them. Highly recommended. Be sure to read the sequel, Sarny, too.
Allyson Walcott
This book was quite interesting at times, but I personally feel that it was scary. I didn't feel really captivated by the book because I didn't want to read about all the terrible things that happened. The way the author worded it was very cool because you felt like Sarney was telling you the story.
Feb 07, 2015 Ivo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Claire Tenbrock
Aug 29, 2014 Claire Tenbrock rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-this-summer
NIghtjohn is set during the civil war era. It is told by a African American slave named Sarny. Sarny first sees Nightjohn when he is brought into the plantation bound in chains and covered in scars. She learns that he had escaped to the North and was free but choose to come back to teach other slaves how to read. John teaches Sarny the first ten letters of the alphabet until she is caught writing them in the sand. John is punished by having two of his toes cut off. after a few days John has reco ...more
Liley Tafelsky
Jun 10, 2014 Liley Tafelsky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Night john was a very good and inspiring book. It tells you how bad slaves had it back then and what they had to live through. I think it was interesting that a lot of the regular things we would do and learn as a kid were illegal for them to learn as a slave.
Rhys Weaver
Jul 16, 2015 Rhys Weaver rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nightjohn is a great and quick read and has a very interesting look into slavery through a slave girl's eyes. My one problem with the book was the length. I would've like if it was longer but I suppose the companion book, Sarny, makes up for that.
May 14, 2010 Ccooke2 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: eng-420
I would place this book in the historical/nonfiction genre. The inside flap says that while specific names and places are changed the events are true.
This is a touching story about a freed slave who willingly goes into slave territory to teach reading and writing. His name is John and he comes at night. Paulsen does not shy away from the horrors of slavery. It is real and sad, but also hopeful and inspirational. The narrator is a young girl named Sarney and she is the first on her plantation to
Hannah Applebee
Jun 02, 2016 Hannah Applebee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book, "NightJohn," really helped me to get an understanding and feel what it would be like to be a slave during this historical time period. The book really tug at my heart and it is horrifying to hear that the events that take place were once true. This book is a must-read if you like historical stories and non-fiction.
Jun 02, 2016 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
NightJohn was a very insightful read for me. It caused me to really come to grasps with what horrors people struggled through this troubling time of slavery. It was an awakening read with an inspiring message. I reccomend this book highly.
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Although he was never a dedicated student, Paulsen developed a passion for reading at an early age. After a librarian gave him a book to read--along with his own library card--he was hooked. He began spending hours alone in the basement of his apartment building, reading one book after another.

Running away from home at the age of 14 and traveling with a carnival, Paulsen acquired a taste for adve
More about Gary Paulsen...

Other Books in the Series

Sarny (2 books)
  • Sarny

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“To know things, for us to know things, is bad for them. We get to wanting and when we get to wanting it's bad for them. They thinks we want what they got . . . . That's why they don't want us reading.” 3 likes
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