Witness by Karen Hesse

Date reviewed: 3/16/03             Grades 5-9

Summary: Poetic entries by several characters tell of how a Vermont town embraces Ku Klux Klan ideals until members of the community are attacked.

Personal Reaction: I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book at first – but I was deeply moved by it. It’s a must read, especially now when prejudice is so often in the news.

Points for discussion with children:  Ku Klux Klan, Prohibition  Scholastic discussion guide and one from Multnomah County library

Possible classroom uses: This book would be excellent for studying US History during the era of Prohibition, or a curriculum unit focusing on racism.

Connections to other books? Cormier’s Fade also contains a segment about the Klan wanting to turn the town’s residents against one another (but not suitable for those under grade 8). Nonfiction on the Klan and prejudice/racism for blacks, Jews, etc. would be extremely useful here.

Realia: photographs of “flappers” of the 20s and gin bootleggers; Ku Klux Klan items (hood, robe, burned cross or cross of wood, etc.); photographs of burning crosses, plastic revolver