I have to admit I was a little disappointed last week when we ran out of time to do our book talk on Night John. I was really interested to hear what people thought of it and how they would integrate it into thier class. I liked the book alot and would definitely use it my classroom, despite the "sensitive issues" it raises. I agree with Maki that that these issues need to be raised. We can't just show children the world through rose colored glasses pretending everything is perfect and sweep dark chapters in history like slavery under the rug becuase it happened in the past. Does that mean we should avoid discussing topics in our own history such as the internment of Japanese-Canadians in WWII, residential schools, the horrible mistreatment of Chinese labourers on the railway, the exclusion of Sikhs on the Komagata Maru in Vancouver harbour, to name a few "sensitive issues" that happened in our own province. How does the saying go, "those who forget about history are doomed to repeat it".
Children need to be taught this and it doesn't matter if you feel abit uncomfortable. I agree that the graphic descriptions of violence and degredation against slaves in Night John is shocking, but it should be. It should be shocking to children too, but why would we read books about slavery and glaze over the parts that might offend some people. I think Night John is an accurate and realistic portrayal of the life which many slaves sadly faced and should be discussed with kids. I wouldn't use this book in the primary grades but I think that it would be a good fit in grades 5,6,7 on a unit on the underground railway or on human rights and freedoms.