My Name Is Not Friday

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
My Name Is Not Friday Book Poster Image
Powerful, intense tale of slave life near end of Civil War.

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Kids say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

My Name Is Not Friday presents a nuanced picture of life as a slave in the later years of the Civil War. It describes day-to-day life on a failing plantation and raises questions of how to survive injustice with your dignity intact.

Positive Messages

Every human being is worthy of respect, and none should be bought, sold, or owned. Literacy is a powerful force for change. Perseverance brings you closer to your goals.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Samuel is a conscientious student, but he takes the blame for the misdeeds of his younger brother, Joshua. Once they are separated, he never gives up on his quest to be reunited. Samuel learns to survive as a slave but never betrays his essential dignity.


Set during an especially violent time, My Name Is Not Friday has scenes of violence, but most are understated. An African-American man is whipped by a white woman; he's shackled in chains that rub his feet raw, and he later sustains a gunshot wound. A teen character is shot and killed in front of Samuel. Boys use a gun to escape a slave trader. A major character is disfigured in an explosion.


Samuel eventually understands that a pretty slave girl earns a higher price at auction because she's expected to have sex with her master.


Characters sometimes curse. "Hell," "ass," "bastard," "damn," "son of a bitch," and "s--t" are used up to a half dozen times each. In keeping with historical realities, the "N" word is used more frequently, almost exclusively by white characters who want slavery to continue.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The slaves receive a ration of alcohol at Thanksgiving.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that My Name Is Not Friday is a historical novel by Jon Walter about an African-American boy sold into slavery during the last years of the Civil War. It presents a nuanced picture of life as a slave on a failing plantation at the end of the Civil War. The book has violent scenes, including the whipping of a black man by a white woman, the gunshot death of a teen, and the disfigurement of a major character in an explosion. One character has a realization that a pretty young slave girl will be forced to have sex with her master. Strong language, such as "damn," "hell," "bastard," "ass," and "s--t," are used up to a half dozen times each. In keeping with historical realities, the "N" word is used more frequently, almost exclusively by white characters who are invested in the continuation of slavery. There's an audiobook version narrated by Dion Graham. 

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User Reviews

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Teen, 14 years old Written byReal_Queen101 January 29, 2020

Real_Queen 101 Real Stuff

This book is very inspirational
Teen, 13 years old Written byDetroitLions21 December 7, 2017

Best slavery book, second only to Roots.

Amazing book that gives you a whole new perspective on the civil war. Samuel is a great religious role-model who never gives up to find his brother, this book i... Continue reading

What's the story?

African-American brothers Samuel and Joshua are freeborn black boys who live in a Northern orphanage. When Samuel takes the blame for an offense for which Joshua is suspected, he's taken away, renamed, and sold into slavery. Sent to a slowly failing plantation owned by a Mrs. Allen and her son Gerald, Samuel, now known as "Friday," must learn to work with his fellow slaves and pretend that he does not know how to read, lest he put them all in mortal danger. Through all kinds of hardship, Samuel perseveres, sure he'll one day be reunited with Joshua.

Is it any good?

Finding a new perspective on slavery in America is a daunting task, but author Jon Walter proves more than capable in this sharply detailed and immersive account of one boy's struggle to survive. As freeborn Samuel copes with the enormity of being sold into slavery in Mississippi, his ordeal illuminates the resilience of the human spirit.

There are heroes and scoundrels on both sides of the battle lines, and through thoughtful, suspenseful, and sometimes heartbreaking plotting, MY NAME IS NOT FRIDAY demonstrates the many ways in which hope can shine through the darkest circumstances.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the institution of slavery in America. How has it shaped U.S. history, and how are its ramifications felt today?

  • Why were slaves forbidden from learning how to read? What did plantation owners think was so dangerous about their literacy?

  • What strategies did enslaved people use to maintain their sense of self-esteem? Why were religion and music important to so many of them?

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