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The Barnes & Noble Review Karen Hesse's Newbery Award-winning skills are put to great use in Witness, a poetic tale about friendship, fanaticism, and the deadly undercurrents of racial...

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Bibliographic data

This edition of book was issued in Paperback. The volume of the book is 161 pages (approximate value, can be different depending on the edition). First book "Witness" was published in 2000.

Original Title
Witness
ISBN13
9780439272001
First Published
2000 year
Edition Format
Paperback
Book Language
English
Number of Pages
161 pages
Ebook Format
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Witness

Witness - book cover

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Description of "Witness"

The Barnes & Noble Review Karen Hesse's Newbery Award-winning skills are put to great use in Witness, a poetic tale about friendship, fanaticism, and the deadly undercurrents of racial prejudice. The story takes place in a small Vermont town in the year 1924, revealing the devastating impact of the Ku Klux Klan on this pastoral, insular community. At the heart of the ta The Barnes & Noble Review Karen Hesse's Newbery Award-winning skills are put to great use in Witness, a poetic tale about friendship, fanaticism, and the deadly undercurrents of racial prejudice.

The story takes place in a small Vermont town in the year 1924, revealing the devastating impact of the Ku Klux Klan on this pastoral, insular community. At the heart of the tale are two motherless girls who come to the attention of the newly formed Klan: 12-year-old Leanora Sutter, who is black, and 6-year-old Esther Hirsch, who is Jewish. Hesse tells her story, which is based on real events, through the eyes of 11 different characters.

Each point of view is expressed in poetic form, but with a stark clarity of difference that makes the voices unique and identifiable. There is a fire-and-brimstone preacher whose sermons reveal him as a zealot and whose actions brand him as a hypocrite. There is a middle-aged farm woman named Sara who takes Esther under her wing despite the warnings of her neighbors, trying to help the child understand why the Klan has marked her and her widowed father as targets for their hatred.

Esther's only other friend is Leanora, who is about to learn some harsh lessons on tolerance and hatred herself at the hands of the Klan. And linking them all together is 18-year-old Merlin Van Tornhout, a young man struggling to fit in with the adult world and determine for himself the difference between right and wrong. The remaining characters who circle the periphery of this core group reflect the various mind-sets and biases that were common during this era of fear and persecution, even in a setting as bucolic as the Vermont countryside.

Hesse weaves real historic events into her tale, such as the murder trial of the infamous kidnappers Leopold and Loeb, giving the work a definite period flavor. Using prose that is both sparse and powerful, she builds the tension with a slow crescendo of inevitability that ends in violence, but also offers up an unforgettable lesson on the true power of friendship and acceptance. (Beth Amos)

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About Author

Karen Hesse is an American author of children's literature and literature for young adults, often with historical settings. Her novel Out of the Dust was the winner of the 1998 Newbery Medal and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. In 2002, Hesse was a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship.

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