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Mosley, Walter. 47.

MOSLEY, Waiter. 47. Little, Brown. 232p. c2005.0-316-11035-3. $16.99. JS

An orphaned young slave boy named 47 toils on a Georgia plantation under a vicious overseer until he meets a strange copper-colored teenager who calls himself Tall John. John appears to be a runaway slave, but he reveals that he is really from another planet--and that 47 is "a spirit from the homeland ... destined for greatness." John is 47's first real friend, and he teaches him healing and magical arts as well as the philosophy "Neither nigger nor master be." The two are cruelly punished when they take too long returning with medicinal herbs needed for the master's ill daughter, even though they heal her, and 47 and a slave girl in love with John must combine forces to save John when the overseer takes him to his "killing shack." The three run away, and John, who is badly hurt, tells 47 that he must help battle otherworldly creatures to save the planet, as well as free the slaves on the plantation: the true meaning of freedom is the theme that links the two.

This is Mosley's first book for YAs; he is known for his excellent Easy Rawlins mystery series as well as other titles. The sections of 47 that deal with slave life are powerfully described and haunting, and the references to the legendary character of High John give the character of Tall John added depth: I found the SF plot less compelling and rather confusing at times. (An eighth-grader of my acquaintance who read this had the same reaction, commenting that the author should have picked one genre or the other and not mixed the two.) I look forward to more YA novels by this wonderful author, however. Paula Rohrlick, KLIATT

J--Recommended for junior high school students. The contents are of particular interest to young adolescents and their teachers.

S--Recommended for senior high school students.
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Author:Rohrlick, Paula
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2005
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