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Wolf by the Ears Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 1993

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 580L (What's this?)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks (January 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0590434128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0590434126
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #731,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The 19-year-old daughter of Thomas Jefferson and a slave woman faces conflicts concerning her lineage; PW praised this "intelligent yet earthy history that lends insight into the complex feelings surrounding race relations." Ages 12-up.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 7-12-- This historical novel explores the life of Harriet Hemings, one of Jefferson's household slaves and possibly his daughter. While the character of Harriet is largely fictional, her story is set firmly within an authentic historical context. The plot is revealed through Harriet's diary, a device that occasionally seems forced. A very light-skinned slave, she is favored in the Monticello household where she feels secure and protected. Other less fortunate members of the slave community urge her to make plans to take her freedom when she turns 21, a freedom that Jefferson has promised to all of the children of his supposed mistress, Sally Hemings. It is not until she is almost raped by the drunken husband of Jefferson's granddaughter that Harriet begins to contemplate what life might be like at Monticello after Jefferson dies. Thus, she makes the decision to move to Washington, D. C., and to pass as white. Knowing that this is her best hope for a decent life does not prevent her from feeling guilt over abandoning her race or grief over leaving behind all that she knows and loves. The moral dilemmas Harriet faces are played out against the backdrop of Jefferson's own ambivalence about the institution of slavery. The most telling observation in the novel is that the whites find slavery most repugnant when those enslaved look almost white themselves. Harriet's plight is poignant, and she is a finely drawn, believable character. The racism inherent in the enslavement of Africans is clearly exposed. The evils of slavery appear in a stark light even in the relatively benign environment of Monticello. Exploring the thoughts and feelings of both blacks and whites, this book should provide readers with insights into one of the most significant moral problems in American history. --Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro,
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

ANN RINALDI is an award-winning author best known for bringing history vividly to life. A self-made writer and newspaper columnist for twenty-one years, Ms. Rinaldi attributes her interest in history to her son, who enlisted her to take part in historical reenactments up and down the East Coast. She lives with her husband in central New Jersey.

Customer Reviews

This book kept me wanting to read it's one book that was hard to put down.
The author was also very good at forming solid characters; her characters were believable as well as enjoyable.
T. Misbach
It's an excellant book that made me feel as if I was on Thomas Jefferson's plantation with Harriet Hemmings.
Echo Joylynn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer on May 6, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Wolf by the Ears, by Ann Rinaldi is a great book for both young and old readers. It sets back in the time right after Thomas Jefferson was President. Now living a Monticello, the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence has his own servants. Harriet Hemmings, one of his servants has lived there all her life. She is called a slave, but that's is not the only thing she has been called. There are rumors going around Monticello, that Harriet and her bothers are Thomas Jefferson's children. On Harriet's twenty-first birthday, she has the choice to leave the only people she's known, for the free world. Harriet realizes that she does get special attention, privileges that other slaves don't normally get, and that she is lighter skinned than other servants, but that doesn't mean that Thomas Jefferson, her master and the former president, is her father... or does it? In this story of freedom and slavery, a girl and her brothers have to choose between the life they are living, with there family and friends, and the life where they could be free, but alone.
I feel that this book is a book everyone should read. It shows that one girls' determination to make a difference in her life, can make a difference in many others. It shows that with determination, someone who was a slave, can become a free person. Rinaldi did a great job at capturing the emotion, and determination of one person, and showing that with help, and a little bit of luck, any thing can happen.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 8, 1997
Format: Library Binding
Thomas Jefferson's slave, Harriet Hemmings, believes only what she wishes. She loves the plantation of Monticello and everyone on it. She's only required to do a small amount of work weaving in the morning and serving people at her mother's request. Though Jefferson treats her well, she refuses to believe she is his slave. Ruined by the rumors that she may be his daughter, Jefferson must hide in its shadows. He has now given her the choice, one that will break her heart, whether she should become free or stay as a slave of her master. She doesn't want the freedom that will rip her family apart and leave her race behind to forget. She would have to become white in eyes of others. She would no longer be a slave, or Harriet Hemmings again. Is her love for her master, his blue eyes and gentleness, enough to make her stay? In this book, Ann Rinaldi creatively shows the emotions of her characters and makes them come alive in the eyes of her readers
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Plume45 on October 25, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Narrated in the first person by Harriet, daughter of slave

Sally Hemings of Monticello, this story presents serious historical fiction at the YA level. Meticulously researched by author Rinaldi--who excels in this genre, the book was inspired by a quote from the author of the acclaimed Declaration of Independence. Jefferson himself agonized over the institution of Slavery, describing it as a wolf by the ears, which the country could not handle safely, yet without which the South could not survive economically. At no point in this novel does the Master admit to fathering five children by his devoted slave, Sally. Nor does anyone find even a scrap of paper in his extensive library admitting to anything other than Owner status on his part. So why then does 19-year old Harriet feel in her heart that he is-or might be-her father?

Sally has planned, worked and dreamed for years of her daughter's departure from Monticello-the only world the girl has ever known. Still will not leave as a freed slave, who would not be allowed to remain in Virginia, but rather as a privileged white girl. She needs much preparation to PASS into the white world with safety; of course this means turning her back on her home and family-calling for great sacrifice on the part of both proud mother and brave daughter. This is what some light-skinned slaves have attempted, but it requires constant vigilance against slips of behavior, language and tremendous internal fortitude.

How can naïve Harriet deny her own heritage and ignore the degrading conditions of her fellow slaves who are tortured or humiliated in the white world? How can she endure total separation from her beloved mother, Sally, and her dear

old Mammy Ursula--with her good (and bad) voodoo?
Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hailey on May 11, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The name of my book was Wolf by the Ears by Ann Rinaldi and I gave it four stars. It was about a girl named Harriet who was living as a "servant" in Thomas Jefferson's household. Harriet was one of the children Sally Hemmings had; most believe that her children's father was Mr. Jefferson himself, due to their extremely light skin and the way that they were treated under his authority. This book is Harriet's diary. She writes in it over a period of about two and half years, from the time she is 19 until she turns 21. Harriet has an option of leaving Monticello (the house/plantation) when she turns twenty-one. She doesn't really want to leave, but she can't stay. This book is about her last few years at Monticello and all of her struggles. I gave this book four stars for many reasons. The first reason was because of the way it was written. I think that the author did a really great job of writing this book in a diary form. First, it made the book flow a lot easier. As a reader, I was never left wondering where I was at in the storyline or trying to figure out who was just talking. The author didn't make us jump from character to character. This kind of leads me into my next point. The story was about one girl; it was one girl's diary. I enjoy books that are really only centered around one specific character. With one character, you feel like you can connect to/ understand that character better because you focus on them and their story. My second reason for rating this book four stars was because it was based on real events in history. Personally, I like to read historical fiction because I think that it's sometimes easier for me to visualize and get a feel for the book if I know that its based on something that really happened.Read more ›
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