by Karen Hesse

The Barnes & Noble ReviewKaren 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 mother 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.

Esther's only other friend is Leanora, who is about to learn some harsh ons on tolerance and hatred herself at the hands of the Klan.

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.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Historical
  • Rating: 3.71
  • Pages: 161
  • Publish Date: March 1st 2003 by Scholastic Paperbacks
  • Isbn10: 0439272009
  • Isbn13: 9780439272001

What People Think about "Witness"

"so, i want to write a kid's book about the KKK coming to town and the town's reaction to it from all different perspectives" "okay, i am listening" "it will be set in vermont..." "wait - what?? everyone thinks vermont is so liberal - we will show them!!" "okay - and i am going to have seventeen main narrators who-" "seventeen??

Telling the story in this way allows Hesse to convey turmoil that the encroaching Ku Klux Klan, because the text makes it feel like the varying characters voices are swimming around in your mind, echoing, crescendoing, and fading depending from whose perspective the story is currently being told.

Read for: Social Justice in Young Adult Literature

Because the novel is narrated by a diverse group of characters, you get to experience the story in a different way. Plot summary: "Witness" by Karen Hesse examines the lives and choices of the residents living in a small Vermont town in 1924. With the KKK slowly gaining power in town, the residents take sides and thus begins the breakdown of a community. Told in poetic verse throughout five acts, the characters narrating represent all sides of what's at stake in their community and the various ways people respond to injustice and hate. Character Descriptions: Leanora Sutter: Leanora is a 12 year old black girl living with her father and dealing with the recent death of her mother. As the story progresses and the KKK begins to take over, Percelle starts to realize that his neutrality is no longer an option and he must start taking a stand for what he has come to believe. Sara Chickering: Sara is a middle aged, single, female farmer that takes in a young Jewish girl and her father upon their arrival in her town. However, when the KKK shows up, Harvey finds himself moving towards the dark side and becoming someone full of hate and prejudice, willing to do terrible things for his own advancement. Esther Hirsh: Esther is a six year old Jewish girl, that moves from New York City to Vermont with her father, following the death of her mother. He is a hateful character that sexually abuses young children and does just about anything to keep his name in good standing with the KKK. Key Issues: race, lynching, intolerance, death, prejudice, KKK, Jewish, rum runner, choices, struggle, transformation, clergyman, constable, desperation Other interesting information: Setting: This story takes place in Vermont in 1924 during the rise of the KKK and prohibition.

My favorite was Leanora, but I also liked Esther and Sara and the newspaper guy (Richard something, I forgot his name haha)

Witness This book is written as free verse poetry. If youre curious about novels-in-verse, this might be a good place to start because it doesnt require a big time commitment. Its a childrens book, but you get to hear from adult characters, which is unusual. Leanora is a twelve-year-old African American girl who fully understands the threat the Klan poses. The characters are where this book shines, but I think there are too many of them. The book has 11 different narrators. There are photos of each narrator at the beginning of the novel, but my memory isnt that good. Each page is narrated by a different character. Even though this isnt a plot-driven book, I wish the mystery had been introduced earlier. It shows that an evil organization like the Klan can seem tempting to regular people. Witness also shows that people can change their minds and learn from their mistakes.

She only has one friend, Ester, who is six years old, and she's pretty much the only child that doesn't want to be involved with the KKK in the story. There are many other people in the story also. In this book, it shows people how bad the KKK really was. The KKK would kill black people just because they didn't have the same white skin that they did.

The residents of the town bear witness to the events of 1924 in haunting free verse. As I think about the novel I am tempted to rate it higher, but the very stilted style and odd syntax Hesse uses for Esthers narration just didnt work for me.

We read this in English class, and I first I was very confused and didn't love it.