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Nightjohn (Sarny #1)

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  3,377 ratings  ·  499 reviews
A "searing picture of slavery" (Kirkus Reviews) from Newbery Honor-winning author Gary Paulsen. Twelve-year-old slave Sarny risks terrible punishment as Nightjohn, an adult slave, teaches her how to read. An inspirational story, meticulously researched and historically accurate.
Audio Cassette, 0 pages
Published April 1st 1997 by Recorded Books Inc. (first published January 1st 1993)
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Mr. Z
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
Beck D.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Claire Tenbrock
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
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
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.
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
Heidi Grether

Paulsen's novel Nightjohn is narrated by a young slave girl named Sarny. She details the harsh realities of slave life from a twelve-year-old's perspective, and how her life changes once Nightjohn comes to the plantation and teaches her to read. This was a quick and thoughtful read, and I liked it well enough. Some of the violent scenes were very descriptive, which is why I think it is appropriate for an older young adult audience. Although this book deals with many harsh pu
Alma Haro
“Waller catches Sarny writing in the dirt, he picks her up so high she’s hanging off the ground!” The book, “NightJohn” written by Gary Paulsen is an inspirational story that travels back in history. It includes a child’s need to learn, and how she suffers throughout her life. Sarny, is a miniature, young, African-American girl whose mother was sold when she was only four years of age. All the other children, just like Sarny, were put in a home where old Delie (who Sarny calls Mammy) would take ...more
lovelier table 17

Nightjohn is about a girl who is a slave who works for an evil man called Waller. Halfway through the book a man blacker than night named John came back to the slaves because he got caught. He got caught on purpose because he had a dream to help slaves read. The girl was named Sarny. She was twelve years old.

One night, John said, “Does anyone want to trade some tobacco?”

Sarny says, “I got some. What you got to trade?”

“What are letters?”

There are consequences for letters back in that da
For ages 10+
By Gary Paulsen

This book is very intriguing, compared to the other books I’ve read, because it has a lot of drama and action, plus a lot of suspense. I would really recommend this author for other people, if you like all of that. On a scale of 1-10, I would rate it 10. It is really one of the most amazing books I have read. Nightjohn is set in the 1800’s, when the Civil war was happening, and when the slaves weren’t allowed to know how to read, write, or know pretty mu
Nightjohn is a book written by Gary Paulsen about a girl named Sarney who has been living in a slavery camp for as long as she could remember. One day a new slave is brought in to the same camp who goes by the name of Nightjohn. He claims that he can teach Sarney how to read and write. Sarney knows that learning to read or write is forbidden in the camp, but she accepts anyway.

This is the bold start to the book that gives a lot of suspense in the early chapters, as Sarney has to make sure nobody
Spencer G

The book “Nightjohn” by Gary Paulsen is an amazing book. It is about a slave named Sarny who wants to learn how to read. One day a new slave is brought back in ropes and chains and it is Nightjohn. One night he comes to her and asks her if she has any chew tobacco. She said she would only trade the tobacco if he could teach her how to read, and they come in agreement for the trade. “Tonight we just do ‘A’ ” Nightjohn says” (pg. 38) He teaches her each night a new letter until one night their mas
December 19th, 2014

“ I’m just quit and they be thinking because I don’t make noise and go to twittering all the time that I be dumb. But I am not. I just be so quite and listen all the time that I learn things.” (Paulsen15)

This amazing book “Nightjohn” is a novel that was written by Gary Paulsen. This amazing story takes place in the Southern part of America during the time of slavery. The main character is Sarny who is a twelve years old African American slave. Sarny was born all backwards and
Megan S
Nightjohn is a memorable story that takes place at the whitehouse. A young girl named Sarny was displaced with her mother right after 4 years with her and was taken to be a slave. Every day she sees new people come in in either a good or a bad way, and one day Nightjohn comes in a bad way. He comes with a rope tied around his neck and gets whipped on by Clel Waller, the head person of the white house. One night Nightjohn comes to Sarny and starts talking to her and said that if she gives him one ...more
I thought the novel was amazing for many reasons.I thought it was amazing because it represents many values.Some of the values are bold,risk-taking and loyalty.

I thought it was bold because in the novel,Sarny (a young slave) has been a slave since she was born.She never learned how to read or write,been abused and worked for days.This is representing bold because although she was treated terribly,she is still standing up and trying so hard to get away form the plantation after what they did to
David Sanchez-garcia
I like this book. It’s interesting. I was amazed at where Nightjohn did just to be with the slaves. I think this book is sad too.
When he was teaching Sarny.
When he defends mammy.
And he made his shoes.
This book interesting Sarny learns to be literate. I also liked when there was a slave running but they caught him when Nightjohn defends mammy and Sarny. I felt depressed.
This book is interesting. It showed me how slaves used to live. The characters were very clever. They were brave.

It s
I think the book Nightjohn is great.It have a lot of actions and sad can learn a lot of stuff important from the book.The book tells you how you should treat people.

It have a lot of actions and sad moments. When Nightjohn escapes it was a really big action because it's really hard for a slave to escape to the north.and when they whipped mammy in the spring was very painful and sad because she is an old women.A man can take it but a women can not.

you can learn many important s
Yes I do like this book. It teaches about how it feels to work as a slave. The book shows how it feels when slaves are in danger. It tells how slaves get treated when disobeying.

Night John teaches how it feels by describing how they get treated. Slaves are treated bad they got whipped like Night John had been whipped. The book also said that girls get raped when they are ready to have babies.

The book teaches how it feels to work as a slave. When you work as a slave you work for hours and hours
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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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