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47
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Number 47, a fourteen-year-old slave boy growing up under the watchful eye of a brutal master in 1832, meets the mysterious Tall John, who introduces him to a magical science and also teaches him the meaning of freedom.

About the Author

Walter Mosley is the bestselling author of Little Scarlet, Fear Itself, and Bad Boy Brawly Brown; the acclaimed Easy Rawlins series of mysteries; and other works of fiction and nonfiction. This is his first book for young adults.

Reviews

This thought-provoking, genre-bending account of one slave's emancipation, Mosley's (Fear Itself) first book for young adults, makes for harrowing reading. The narrator, called simply by his number, 47, recalls his life as an enslaved teen on a Georgia plantation in 1832, occasionally interjecting the wisdom he has gleaned in the intervening years. At the "most likely" age of 14 ("Slaves... didn't have ages like the white people did," he explains), 47 is sent to the fields to pick cotton. His life in the slave quarters begins with having his number literally branded on his shoulder in a brutal scene, which palpably captures the cruelty of the period. Mosley's novel is more than a work of historical fiction, however-47 starts off by explaining that these events "happened over a hundred and seventy years ago," and hints that something supernatural is coming. It arrives in the person of "Tall John from beyond Africa," who masquerades as a runaway from a neighboring farm, but who is, in fact, an extraterrestrial searching the galaxy for 47. Those familiar with African-American folklore will recognize him as a variant of High John the Conqueror, a spirit who ultimately sets the slaves free. "Neither master nor nigger be," Tall John repeatedly tells 47, who must unlearn a lifetime of subservience in order to grasp the nature of freedom and its relationship to responsibility. Equal parts history and tall tale, this engaging story related by an endearing narrator is so full of dramatic tension that few readers will realize they're learning something, too. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

'This thought-provoking, genre-bending account of one slave's emancipation makkes for harrowing reading...Equal parts history and tall tale, this engaging story related by an endearing narrator is so full of dramatic tension tha few readers will realise they're learing something, too' - PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Gr 7-10-The intense, personal slave narrative of 14-year-old Forty-seven becomes allegorical when a mysterious runaway slave shows up at the Corinthian Plantation. Tall John, who believes there are no masters and no slaves, and who carries a yellow carpet bag of magical healing potions and futuristic devices, is both an inspiration and an enigma. He claims he has crossed galaxies and centuries and arrived by Sun Ship on Earth in 1832 to find the one chosen to continue the fight against the evil Calash. The brutal white overseer and the cruel slave owner are disguised Calash who must be defeated. Tall John inserts himself into Forty-seven's daily life and gradually cedes to him immortality and the power, confidence, and courage to confront the Calash to break the chains of slavery. With confidence, determination, and craft, Tall John becomes Forty-seven's alter ego, challenging him and inspiring him to see beyond slavery and fight for freedom. Time travel, shape-shifting, and intergalactic conflict add unusual, provocative elements to this story. And yet, well-drawn characters; lively dialogue filled with gritty, regional dialect; vivid descriptions; and poignant reflections ground it in harsh reality. Older readers will find the blend of realism, escapism, and science fiction intriguing.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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