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Trade Reviews

  Booklist Review

Gr. 7-10. In his first YA book, acclaimed mystery writer Mosley tells a stirring story of escape from slavery in which sf and African American myth blend with the realism of plantation brutality and the courage of resistance. A boy today remembers himself as a 14-year-old slave named 47, living in Georgia in 1832. He recalls being chained, branded, and whipped until the runaway Tall John inspires him to fulfill his destiny and lead his people to freedom. Like the mythical figure High John the Conqueror, the runaway comes from beyond Africa, and he shows the boy the secrets of the universe. Above all, 47 takes in Tall John's repeated lesson (Neither master nor nigger be ), which is finally what sets him free. The magical realism allows for some plot contrivance, but Mosley brings the harsh facts and anguish very close, and the first-person narrative shows and tells how slavery is the most unbelievable part of this whole story. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2005 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

Forty-seven is the name and number of a 14-year-old slave working on Master Tobias's Georgia plantation in 1832. Forty-seven is also the narrator of Mosley's young-adult literature debut, still alive almost two centuries later to tell of his fated encounter with 3,000-year-old Tall John from "beyond Africa," who has arrived in a Sun Ship from planet Elle (where red and purple forests are populated by tiny, multi-colored men and women) in the guise of a young runaway slave. This boldly unusual blend of historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy has some powerful moments, such as when 47 is brutally branded by a sadistic fellow slave; and many heroic moments, such as when 47 and Tall John battle evil forces to keep them from mining the Earth's green powder and destroying the planet. Mostly, however, this is a flawed, didactic exploration of the nature of freedom, juxtaposing the brutality of 19th-century American slavery with the society of a faraway planet where skin color is irrelevant because "behind all existence there is one great mind." (Fiction. 12-16) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
First young adult novel from acclaimed mystery writer Walter Mosley. Science fiction and African American myth blend with historical reality and stirring emotional detail in a daring and liberating work of powerful fiction. A boy remembers himself as a slave named 47, living in Georgia in 1832. Chained, branded and whipped, he is mentally liberated by Tall John, a runaway who shows him the secrets of the universe and instils the maxim 'neither master nor nigger be' in the child's head, which, ultimately, leads him to freedom.
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