Scholastic Inc.

January 2003

$6.99 US

161p pb

ISBN: 978-0439272001

fp September 2001


Karen Hesse

from the book...

Leanora Sutter, Esther Hirsh, Merlin Van Tornhout, Johnny Reeves...

These characters are among the unforgettable cast inhabiting a small Vermont town in 1924 - a town that turns against its own when the Ku Klux Klan moves in. No one is safe, especially the two youngest, twelve-year-old Leonora, an African-American girl, and six-year-old Esther, who is Jewish.

In this story of a community on the brink of disaster, told through the haunting and impassioned voices of its inhabitants, Newbery Award winner Karen Hesse takes readers into the hearts and minds of those who bear witness.

If you have read this verse novel and would like to share your opinion of it with other readers please send your review or comments to YARR-A

The year is 1924 and the small town of Vermont finds that it is under siege from the Klu Klux Klan. Using free verse, author Karen Hesse (also wrote Out Of The Dust) allows 11 unique and memorable voices to relate the story of the Klan's steady infiltration into the conscience of a small community of Vermont. At the beginning the Klu Klux Klan's 'All American' attitude, is embraced by several important men of the Vermont community, including Constable Parcelle Johnson and the all important retailer Harvey Pettibone, Harvey's wife Viola and Iris Weaver believe, from the beginning that the arrival of the Klu Klux Klan is bad news for the community. As the only African Americans in town, 12-year old Leonora Sutter and her father try to escape Klan scrutiny, while 6-year-old, city-born Esther Hirsch remains blissfully unaware of the Klan's prejudice against Jews as she enjoys the Vermont countryside. Sara Chickering, the lady farmer who has opened her home to Esther and her father, is torn between her own hidden biases and her growing love for Esther.

This is a book of love and trust. This casual style makes it feel as if you are reading into the characters private journal. Hesse uses rare dialogue between characters, so in the event that there is dialogue, it is easy to read and keep pace with. The strong storyline was done so well that I can see it being appropriate for children 12 to 16.

Jessica, Year 9, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

From the Newbery Award-winning author of Out of the Dust, Karen Hesse, comes the story Witness. It is about the childhood of a black girl, Leanora Sutter, and a Jewish girl, Esther Hirsh, and the different opinions of people in their town when an all-American, redneck racist group called the Ku Klux Klan arrives. Reactions from the township to the KKK range from admiration to fear to derision and the well-being of both Esther’s and Leanora’s families are put at risk. Set after the American Civil War and describing the general racism of white cults, Hesse puts the reader into the shoes of different people in the story.

This verse novel was quite good, with a twist at the end. I usually prefer a different story line, but this book was good. Aimed at older readers and students, high school and college, I rate this novel 4 out of 5 stars.

Matt, Year 10, Canberra, Australia

The novel I read was called Witness and the author of the book is Karen Hesse. This novel was set in 1924, in a small town in Vermont and a group of people called the Ku Klux Klan cause disaster to the small town. The novel was about how the Ku Klux Klan comes to the town and as soon as they are there they cause fear for the people living in the little town; some characters in the novel   are scared for their lives. In the novel, Witness, there are lots of characters but the two main characters are Esther Hirsh and she is six years old and Jewish, the other main character is  Leanora Sutter and she is twelve years old and African-American. Leonora, who lost her mother, makes friends with Esther…

I found Witness a little hard to understand and I think that this book is suitable for people that are between the age of fourteen and eighteen. It has much depth and is best for people who enjoy stories set in the past with a factual basis.

Allie, Year 8, Canberra, Australia

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