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

The Slave Dancer

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  6,441 ratings  ·  287 reviews
Jessie Bollier often played his fife to earn a few pennies down by the New Orleans docks. One afternoon a sailor asked him to pipe a tune, and that evening Jessie was kidnapped and dumped aboard The Moonlight, a slave ship, where a hateful duty awaited him. He was to play music so the slaves could "dance" to keep their muscles strong, their bodies profitable. Jessie was si ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 144 pages
Published March 12th 1997 by Laurel-Leaf Books (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.

Be the first to ask a question about The Slave Dancer

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
O. Ouellette
Mar 09, 2012 O. Ouellette rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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
Kyle Pratt
Jan 25, 2013 Kyle Pratt rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Phil Jensen
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
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
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
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
"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 24, 2011 Jill rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Kathryn Reeder
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is a very well-written book. I am unhappy because of all the not-great reviews it is getting. However, it was definitely not what I expected, so some of those reviews are understandable. Once you get into this story, though, it is VERY hard to put down. There are some violent scenes, but , being told through a child's eyes, it's not as bad as it could be. The main character, Jessie, is a boy from the South who lives with his mother and sister. He loves to wander the city playing his fife, e ...more
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
Leila Brooke
I am still in the middle of reading this book, and I have to say, I really am enjoying it so far.Lots of people I know do not enjoy reading this book, mostly because they either think it's too boring or too wordy. I agree, that there are many hard words in this book, and whenever I read it I actually keep a dictionary beside me, but I think this would be enjoyable to a person who likes historical books.
I wouldn't actually recommend this book to just anyone, however, because it does tend to get
Margaret Hardie
I was surprised to find so many people who reviewed and loved this book and chastise those of us who don't. I guess I am not politically correct here. I guess, in it's favor, it is historical in nature (which I do like) and was not boring. AND, if you want to teach the horrors of slavery, it hits it's mark. But as for a good read? There was nothing EVER (that made me, at least), want to keep reading it. I am quite aware of the horror of man's inhumanity to man. But surely we can put some joyful ...more
Well written and powerful, this story of a boy kidnapped from New Orleans and taken on a slave ship does not shrink from portraying the horror of the Middle Passage (or, though not discussed as much, the horror of slavery writ large). The prose is carefully crafted and I admire the book, but I was kept a little at a distance because of the choice to have the protagonist be a white person. That's one valid way of telling this story, but that authorial decision maintained the enslaved people as an ...more
Tabi Lancina
This book is about a thirteen year old white boy who is kidnapped and taken onto an African American slave ship where he is forced to play music for the slaves. He is taken from his world of freedom and witnesses first hand what it was like for black people in that time. This is a good book for kids to understand how privileged they are to have freedom and to also learn about the history of slavery, even though it isn't a true story, it is very realistic. I think this book would be good to read ...more
Ruth E.
1974 Newbery winner - Author/illustrator Paula Fox - The story of a young boy who is kidnapped and taken on a slave ship to Africa. The slaves will be brought back to America for sale. His job is to play a flute to so the slaves will dance for exercise. This is the story of his journey there and back. The ship is ship-wrecked and the only surviviors is the young boy,Jessie Bollier, and a young African boy. They end up in Mississippi rescued by a runaway slave who send the young black boy on the ...more
I'm really getting to be a fan of Paula Fox - this is the second of her novels that I've read in the last month or so. The other, "Desperate Characters", was aimed at adults, and this one is geared primarily towards young adolescents. The story takes place in 1840 and the narrator is a sympathetically portrayed 13-year-old New Orleans boy called Jessie, who's kidnapped from the docks and forced to work on a slave ship, hauling buckets of waste and playing the fife while the captive Africans are ...more
Katharine Ott
"In a hinged wooden box upon the top of which was carved a winged fish, my mother kept the tools of her trade." Another Newbery Medal recipient (1974)and another winner of a book. In "The Slave Dancer," Paula Fox writes a grim, but gripping story detailing a horrific voyage of the slaver "The Moonlight." Young Jessie is press-ganged from his neighborhood in the Vieux Carre of New Orleans and endures several months of appalling treatment as he is put to work on the sorry ship.

This story takes pla
I couldn't get much of a grip on the main character, Jessie, until the part called "The Spaniard.” It clicked when someone asked him how he felt about slavery and he responded, "I don't know." I'm not entirely sure why, but suddenly his character clicked. Maybe it's because he didn't have a perfect answer, like he definitely would've in any other story. His character had very human flaws. But I feel like Fox didn’t add as much of Jessie’s emotions and thoughts as she could’ve at parts that reall ...more
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
Intrigued as it was a Newberry book and one that I had never heard of before, I had no prejudgments to go upon as I started to read The Slave Dancer. This book is dark and shows the cruelty of slavery which I found difficult for being a Newberry book. Sure, it was 1974 Newberry winner but some of the descriptions of the cruelty and the conditions the slaves were exposed to, should only be for the mature reader. The slaves do not have clothing or have minimum clothing and Jessie is taken back by ...more
"I danced the slaves under Stout's watchful eye...But in truth I was so agitated I could hardly make my fingers work on the fife...I could not help but see the wretched shambling men and women whose shoulders sank and rose in exhausted imitation of movement."

Let me just start out by telling you that some literary critics believe that the book The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox is inappropriate reading for the Junior High grade level due to the violent nature of the story. The plot focuses on a distur
Fox, Paula. The Slave Dancer. New York: Dell, 1991. Print.
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Multicultural
The Slave Dancer by Paula Fix is a story about a young Caucasian boy who is kidnapped and forced to play his flute. The boy’s flute is used to provide music for the African American salves so they can dance and exercise to while traveling to the United States. This story is set in the time around the civil war where many were faced with the harsh reality of moral choices. The stories main setting tak
This book is a newberry honor book. It is the story of a preteen boy named Jessie who is kidnapped and put on board a slave trade ship. I was not immediately drawn in, but after reading a few chapters, I was very much interesting in knowing what the outcome would be. I like that the story of this complex, ugly piece of history is told through the eyes of a young person. It gives the story naivety and objectivity you can also find in a book like To Kill a Mockingbird. It is a 6.0 on the AR readin ...more
Torgy Torgensen
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
The Slave Dancer was the Newbery Award winner for 1974; it's an old school book, written in an old school style. Therefore, for people who love modern style writing that's quick or not too prosy, this one probably isn't the one for them. It miiiight not hold the attention of an action-driven kid who is more interested in racing around the yard than reading, but I think it is a good teaching tool or a launching point so that parents or teachers could talk to kids about slavery, slave ships and th ...more
The Slave Dancer is a story about a young 13 year old boy, Jessie, who lives in New Orleans during the slave trade era. Jessie is kidnapped and brought to a slave ship heading to Africa. His job is to play music for the slaves so that they will dance. This measure was taken to help them slow the process of muscle deterioration while in severely cramped quarters on board.

The Slave Dancer is one of those books that definitely brings truth to the phrase, "Don't judge a book by it's cover." I origi
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Dobry
  • Tales From Silver Lands
  • A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers
  • The Dark Frigate
  • Shadow Of A Bull
  • ...And Now Miguel
  • Shen of The Sea: Chinese Stories for Children
  • Waterless Mountain
  • Roller Skates
  • Gay Neck: The Story of a Pigeon
  • Daniel Boone
  • M.C. Higgins, the Great
  • Secret of the Andes
  • The White Stag
  • The Story of Mankind
  • Miss Hickory
  • Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze
  • A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-32
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...
Desperate Characters One-Eyed Cat Borrowed Finery: A Memoir Monkey Island The Widow's Children: A Novel

Share This Book

“You'll see some bad things, but if you didn't see them, they'd still be happening.” 28 likes
More quotes…