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Guardian Hardcover – October 28, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Amistad (October 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061558907
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061558900
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #920,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7–10—With segregation still ruling the rural South in 1946, the friendship between Ansel Anderson, who is white, and Willie Benton, who is black, faces many obstacles. After the town eccentric offers the boys an opportunity to leave their homes and pursue their dreams, the 14-year-olds consider their options. However, when Ansel's father helps a mob lynch Willie's father for the murder of a white girl, the teens must pursue their destinies separately. After many years, Ansel stops by his hometown and encounters Zeph Davis, the actual killer. Lester's unconventional opening momentarily confuses readers, but they are soon drawn into the narrative. "Trees remember…. But some trees do not speak…because they are ashamed." Poignant and powerful phrasing overshadows spare character development and helps satisfy readers' desire to explore the deeper motivations for some behaviors. The understated violence, coupled with reflections on lynching, heightens the horror. Back matter includes an author's note that explains the genesis of the story, an appendix with lynching statistics broken down by state, and a bibliography of lynching-related titles. Detailing the death of a friendship and the drive to succeed, Lester's compelling tale is an excellent purchase for most libraries.—Chris Shoemaker, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Respected writer and civil rights activist Julius Lester imagines the lynching of a black man falsely accused of the attempted rape and subsequent murder of a white teenager in a small Southern town in 1946. The act of lynching is, of course, inarguably, unambiguously evil, and Lester brings great visceral and dramatic power to his depiction of the event. However, he may not have given himself enough space in this short novel for a completely satisfactory examination of the more complex moral crisis that confronts a white shopkeeper and his 14-year-old son—the book’s protagonist—who know the truth but fail to speak out to prevent the injustice. Similarly, too many other characters are presented as being either inarguably good or unambiguously—almost melodramatically—bad for complete plausibility. Despite these arguable shortcomings, this remains a courageous and thought-provoking novel. Appended material provides important additional information about lynching, and the evolution of the book and Lester’s decision to write from the point of view of the white teenager are examined in an author’s note. Grades 9-12. --Michael Cart

More About the Author

Born in 1939, Julius Lester spent his youth in the Midwest and the South and received a B.A. in English from Fisk University in 1960.Since 1968 he has published 25 books of fiction, nonfiction, children's books, and poetry. Among the awards these books have received are the Newbery Honor Medal, American Library Association Notable Book, National Jewish Book Award Finalist, The New York Times Outstanding Book, National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, Caldecott Honor Book, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and a National Book Award Finalist. His books have been translated into eight languages.He has published more than one hundred essays and reviews in such publications The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times Op-Ed Page, The Boston Globe, The Village Voice, The New Republic, Katallagete, Moment, Forward, and Dissent.He has recorded two albums of original songs, hosted and produced a radio show on WBAI-FM in New York City for eight years, and hosted a live television show on WNET in New York for two years. A veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, his photographs of that movement are included in an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution and are part of the permanent photographic collection at Howard University.After teaching at the New School for Social Research for two years, Mr. Lester joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts/Amherst in 1971 where he is presently a full professor in the Judaic and Near Eastern Studies Department, and adjunct professor in the English and History departments. He also serves as lay religious leader of Beth El Synagogue in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.He has been awarded all four of the university's most prestigious faculty awards: The Distinguished Teacher's Award; the Faculty Fellowship Award for Distinguished Research and Scholarship; Distinguished Faculty Lecturer; and recipient of the Chancellor's Medal, the University's highest honor. In 1986 the Council for Advancement and Support of Education selected him as the Massachusetts State Professor of the Year.Mr. Lester's biography has appeared in Who's Who In America since 1970. He has given lectures and papers at more than 100 colleges and universities.His most recent books are John Henry, And All Our Wounds Forgiven, a novel about the civil rights movement, and Othello, a novel based on the Shakespeare play.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 7 customer reviews
He has a gift with the turn of a phrase so feel like you know exactly what he means.
J. Stahl
Cap'n Davis has a way of employing his "negroes" in such a way that they remain in debt to him, a legal form of slavery.
Both a wonderful novel and a history textbook, GUARDIAN would be an excellent read for a high school student.
Teen Reads

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on February 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
We don't judge books by their covers --- or spines. Julius Lester's GUARDIAN may be the reason for that. This thin volume looks like it's so short that it doesn't have enough time to be interesting, but it packs quite the punch.

Ansel Anderson works at the store owned by his father, Bert. He knows that someday he will grow up and take over from his dad, and then later he will have a son who will do the same. Things never change. His friend Willie, who is black, also knows that things never change. No matter what Ansel tells him, Willie always calls him Mister, and Willie seems content to be stuck in his role below Ansel. It's 1946, and things like segregation, sharecropping and racism are as natural as breathing.

When Ansel and Willie are out walking, they run into Zeph Davis, son of the richest man in town. The Davis family is legendary --- so legendary, in fact, that the town is named after them. It would be nothing to run into Zeph, except that he is horrible and mean, and happens to be walking with Mary Susan, who Ansel may have a crush on and who may just have a crush on Ansel as well. Everyone exchanges words, and Mary Susan, the preacher's daughter, insults Zeph, making him angry.

When a terrible crime occurs just a few days later, it is only Ansel and Willie who know the truth about what has happened, and only Ansel, as a young white man, who has the power to right the wrong. But he is just meek enough that correcting an error turns out to be very hard to do.

GUARDIAN is subtly poignant, and it shines not only in its simple story but also in its storytelling. Lester's language is beautiful, and his prologue is a poetic beginning to a serious, sad story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on January 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Gold Star Award Winner!

There was a dark time in the history of the United States when even the best-intentioned people bore silent witness to the atrocities that were being committed by others. A time in which a person had to chose between honesty and personal safety.

It is Tuesday afternoon, a hot summer day in 1946. By Friday night a crime will have been committed, two people will be dead, and fourteen-year-old Ansel Anderson will be forever tormented by the events of that night and those that followed.

Ansel lives in Davis, a small town deep in the South. The town was named after the most wealthy and influential family in the area, the family now headed by Zeph Davis. Cap'n Davis has a way of employing his "negroes" in such a way that they remain in debt to him, a legal form of slavery.

Everyone in Davis knows the rules of the social order. Black people are expected to address all whites - even the children - as "ma'am" or "sir", they are to move from the sidewalk when a white person is coming, and they are to always be congenial. Even Ansel's best friend, Willie, addresses him as Mister Ansel.

Ansel works in his father's store, along with Willie. Bert Anderson is preparing Ansel to take over the store someday, and to be a successful store owner he knows that Ansel has to start considering who he spends time with and what the other people in town think of him. His mother Maureen feels differently. She doesn't like the way the townspeople act and doesn't want her son to grow up with such narrow-minded influences. She has bigger dreams for Ansel, and, along with Esther Davis, Cap'n Davis's sister, she plants the seeds for Ansel to dream of a future beyond Davis.

An unfortunate storm is brewing in Davis.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. B. Webb on July 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is very intense and well written. However, it's subject matter is too intense for children younger than 16 or grade level less than a junior (11th grade). This book was placed on a summer reading list for my 12 year old granddaughter. I am very glad that I read it first before she did. I will recommend it to her later on in life but not at 12 going into the 8th grade. For an adult - I recommend this book highly.
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Format: Hardcover
Lester is not one to shy away from the topic of race. His gift lies in humanizing the aspects of all people: the good, the bad, the confused, the empty-shell people, and the truly evil. In this day and age, I love to hope that racial tensions are a thing of the past, but I still hear about things that happen (crimes, bad jokes, etc.) that were racially motivated. Lester even comments on some of them at the end of the book in his author's note and in the appendix. I do wonder how many Native Americans were lynched in the time period provided on the table...

This is a story of a small town in the Deep South who still distrust the black people that live there. Ansel works with his father in the store, and his father seems to be sympathetic to the black people that live there, yet he still doesn't treat them as well as he could because he doesn't want to lose his store, home and everything he has ever known. You can understand why he feels the way he does, but when it comes time to make a decision between right and wrong, the reader will feel he makes the wrong choice. Even his son knows his father has made the wrong choice, and that is something that will haunt Ansel for the rest of his life.

It is still amazing to me how a mob can know the truth, yet still do something so horrible to an innocent human being, no matter what. Lester shows us the divides of this small town through the eyes of a fourteen-year-old boy. Ansel will challenge you in the way you think and how you feel about others, plus the value of truly doing the right thing, no matter what. Ansel will never forget that day - it literally opened his eyes and changed his life forever.
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