Witness

Common Sense Media says

Confusing yet compelling tale of racism.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

This historical fiction can bring to life something that readers may have encountered in history class. It can certainly lead to some good discussions -- between teacher and class, or among family members. Young readers may want to know more about the Leopold and Loeb case.

Positive messages

This book provides a provocative look into racism and its permeation into everyday life, and the quiet way decent people stand up to it.

Positive role models

Characters have different opinions, but readers will be moved by people who change and also stand up to racism.

Violence

A man is shot and injured, a cross is burned, a boy dies when a sandbank collapses on him, the Leopold and Loeb case and other violent news stories are discussed. There is a reference to child molestation.

Sex
Not applicable
Language

Racial epithets are used.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

One character smuggles bootleg liquor.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the subject of this book is a great topic for discussion -- racism, its permeation into everyday life, and the quiet way decent people stand up to it. This historical fiction can bring to life something that readers may
have encountered in history class. It can certainly lead to some good
discussions -- between teacher and class, or among family members.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Life in a small Vermont town in the 1920s is disrupted when the Ku Klux Klan starts making inroads and picking up adherents there. With their usual tactics of threats, intimidation, and cross burning, they create a climate of fear and division, especially for two young girls, one black and one Jewish. But Vermonters, though certainly racist, don't respond in the same way as the Klan has been used to in the South.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Written in free-verse poetry, divided into five acts, and told from the point of view of a large cast of characters, this is, at times, a confusing hodge-podge, and would make a better performance piece than it does a novel. Many (though not all) of the characters are listed in the front, with photos, names, ages, and occupations, and many readers will need to refer to this list frequently to keep them all straight.

Much of the style, including the rather flat-footed poetry, the lack of capital letters, and the cute but bizarre dialect invented for Esther, the little Jewish girl, seem arbitrary. Nevertheless, the story, revealed in bits and pieces through the poems, is compelling and holds the reader's interest. And somewhere, some avant-garde high school drama teacher is going to make a terrific little theater piece out of this.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about historical fiction. How is reading this book different than reading an actual history book? This book is set in the 1920s -- why is it important to read stories from the past?

  • This book is written in free verse poetry. Is it easier to read a book like this -- or does it make it harder to follow the story? What would be difficult about trying to write a book like this?

Book details

Author:Karen Hesse
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Inc.
Publication date:March 6, 2004
Number of pages:161
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

This review of Witness was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written by7789 February 17, 2009
AGE
12
QUALITY
 

I twas a challengingbook for the younger kids

I thought that the book as challenging even for some adults.

Teen, 13 years old Written bykinah94 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 

Excellent Book

This book "Witness" is an excellent book for Black History Month!! Even if it is not Black History Month you can still read it. Their is a liitle "bad" language, but you should be able to handle it!! Hope you read the book!!

Teen, 13 years old Written bytotaltuber811 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 

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