Sarny, a female slave at the Waller plantation, first sees Nightjohn when he is brought there with a rope around his neck, his body covered in scars. He had escaped north to freedom, but he came back--came back to teach reading. Knowing that the penalty for reading is dismemberment, Nightjohn still returned to slavery to teach others how to read. And twelve-year-old Sarny is willing to take the risk to learn. Set in the 1850s, Gary Paulsen's groundbreaking novel is unlike anything else the award-winning author has written. It is a meticulously researched, historically accurate, and an artistically crafted portrayal of a grim time in our nation's past, brought to light through the personal history of two unforgettable characters.