Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Juba!

HarperCollins 2015. 202 pages
First published: 2015
ISBN: 9780062112712 (hardcover)
9780062112736 (paperback)
9780062112743 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Historical

Text Elements:

characterization, evocative language, multimodal, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Teenager William Henry Lane, a.k.a. Juba, rents a room with his friend, for cheap. They support themselves by selling fish from the docks. The hardscrabble world of the desperately poor neighbourhood of Five Points, New York City, is beautifully realized in this book, along with a cast of feisty survivors. Ambitious and talented, Juba dreams of artistic success, but being black is yet another strike against him: “My dancing didn’t mean a thing. The only thing they see in a black man is a clown or a slave.”

Set during a time of slave-States and Charles Dickens’s American Notes (written under the pseudonym of Boz), this illuminating book includes portraits, photos and playbills of the time: “Positively the last six nights of that wonderful youth of colour, Boz’s Juba.” Reviews of the original Juba’s British performances are also reproduced: “extraordinary feats of agility and marvellous flexibility of body . . . distinguished for eccentricity, rapidity of motion and the accuracy of time kept.”

The plot conveys Juba’s acclaim overseas, as well as Five Points friends’ troubles back home. Falling in love changes Juba’s priorities, with a new ambition to support himself and his wife. The story ends with a letter from the sick and dying dancer to his beloved, reflecting his two great passions: “I showed him how to do a slide using the rhythm of a jig. When he got it down, he smiled. It was a beautiful smile. I cannot wait to see you again.”

  •  

    Historical records inspired the story of Juba and his journey from New York to a workhouse in Liverpool, England. Before reading, consider the documents and biographical information about the historical figures that appear in the narrative.

  •  In a book club group, discuss the way history (historical figures and documents) is woven into the narrative.
  •  Use the text, along with other examples of historical fiction for young adults, as a model for creating stories based on historical documents. Using a production process, research and create narratives about people, places and events from the past.
  •  

    Explore a map of New York and locate the area known as Five Points. What were its social and economic demographics in the early to mid-1800s? What entertainment was popular? Research and discuss your findings as a class.

  •  

    As you read, use a graphic organizer to keep track of occupations you discover from the 1800s. For each one, discuss with a partner whether the job still exists today, has disappeared or has transformed. Write a sentence to support each of your answers.

  •  

    Using page 89 as a model, rewrite a children’s story, scene by scene, for one of Juba’s music and dance shows. In small teams, perform the show for your classmates.

  •  

    Write the story of what happened to Priscilla (Cissy) or Stubby while Juba was in London.

  • To cooperate with others
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Personal and Career Planning
  • Career Development
  • Dance
  • Music
  • Social Sciences