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47 Hardcover – May 4, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7-10–The intense, personal slave narrative of 14-year-old Forty-seven becomes allegorical when a mysterious runaway slave shows up at the Corinthian Plantation. Tall John, who believes there are no masters and no slaves, and who carries a yellow carpet bag of magical healing potions and futuristic devices, is both an inspiration and an enigma. He claims he has crossed galaxies and centuries and arrived by Sun Ship on Earth in 1832 to find the one chosen to continue the fight against the evil Calash. The brutal white overseer and the cruel slave owner are disguised Calash who must be defeated. Tall John inserts himself into Forty-seven's daily life and gradually cedes to him immortality and the power, confidence, and courage to confront the Calash to break the chains of slavery. With confidence, determination, and craft, Tall John becomes Forty-seven's alter ego, challenging him and inspiring him to see beyond slavery and fight for freedom. Time travel, shape-shifting, and intergalactic conflict add unusual, provocative elements to this story. And yet, well-drawn characters; lively dialogue filled with gritty, regional dialect; vivid descriptions; and poignant reflections ground it in harsh reality. Older readers will find the blend of realism, escapism, and science fiction intriguing.–Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 7-10. In his first YA book, acclaimed mystery writer Mosley tells a stirring story of escape from slavery in which sf and African American myth blend with the realism of plantation brutality and the courage of resistance. A boy today remembers himself as a 14-year-old slave named 47, living in Georgia in 1832. He recalls being chained, branded, and whipped until the runaway Tall John inspires him to fulfill his destiny and lead his people to freedom. Like the mythical figure High John the Conqueror, the runaway comes from "beyond Africa," and he shows the boy the secrets of the universe. Above all, 47 takes in Tall John's repeated lesson ("Neither master nor nigger be"), which is finally what sets him free. The magical realism allows for some plot contrivance, but Mosley brings the harsh facts and anguish very close, and the first-person narrative shows and tells how "slavery is the most unbelievable part of this whole story." Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (May 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316110353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316110358
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,021,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Neither master nor nigger be."

Powerful words. And a prominent theme running through the remarkable book, 47 by Walter Mosley, an African-American writer best known for his Easy Rawlins series of detective novels-one of which, "Devil in a Blue Dress"-was made into a major motion picture starring Denzel Washington.

This is Mosley's first novel for young adults, but there's plenty in 47 for a grown-up to ponder. Set on a cotton plantation in the South in 1832, it is the first person narrative of "47", a 14-year old slave, brand new to the fields, as he's just gotten big enough to work (slaves don't receive names, only numbers). The up-close look at the institution from this particular perspective is a revelation. Using his hero as an instrument, Mosley describes the physical, psychological and emotional effects the "lifestyle" has on those in its clutches, and who have known nothing else. He does it in simple, stark, powerful words. The reader sees the deep and lasting effect of being raised from birth in a society that is convinced you are inferior, is in your face about it, and has engineered an entire society based on the fact.

I don't have room for details, but rest assured that 47 is an intelligent, heroic young man, capable of great feats of bravery and compassion, as he proves time and time again in the course of the novel. Yet even though this is the case, halfway through the book he still honestly believes, that "All I knew was how to be lazy and how to work like a dog." When he has to kill a white man in self-defense, he immediately looks up to the sky "looking for God's retribution". These and other like insights add up to create a powerful indictment of societal conditioning, and illuminate the folly of judging a people as intrinsically inferior.
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Format: Hardcover
I listened to the Unabridged Audio version of "47", narrated by the late, great Ossie Davis. It was a wonderful experience. The story although aimed toward young teen audiences, is not too simple for adults to enjoy. This story is a heartfelt introduction to slavery for today's youth (to whom many this history is forgotten.) Kudos to Mr. Mosley for taking on such a tough subject; and for the foresight to aim it to a young audience.

On another note, Ossie Davis did an outstanding job with the narrative; I will always treasure this as one of his great works of art.

-- P. Walker-Williams, PageTurner.net
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A Kid's Review on March 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
47 is a strange, interesting book. It's part history of slavery in America, and part science fiction with a mysterious ET. What's even stranger is that the odd combination works. 47 is a 14 year old slave back in 1832. He's always out in the cotton fields picking cotton, feeling sorry for himself. Along come a mysterious stranger named Tall John. 47 thinks Tall John is a slave too, until he finds out that the stranger is really an alien from another world, with unusual powers. At first 47 assumes that Tall John is there to free him and the other slaves, but Tall John is really there to help 47 fight against the Calash, enemies of Tall John's race from his home planet. Capable of making themselves look exactly like humans, they are controlling real humans and must be defeated. 47 turns out to be brave and bold (as Tall John knew all along) and he and other slaves rise up against the Calash and save our world. By living up to his potential and full abilities, 47 shows that no matter who you are, adversity can be overcome with courage and conviction. Another book I read with a similar theme is An Audience for Einstein, a story about a 12 year old who is also helped to overcome great odds.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book has been stolen from me about 5 times over the years. I was so NOT mad every time it went missing. My students love it. I read it to them and discuss how they feel and it's implications for human rights. Mosley needs to do more children's work.
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Format: Hardcover
Walter Mosley is likely to capture a new generation of readers and fans with his first book for young adult readers, 47. The story is a mix of history, mythology (particularly the story of Tall John the Conqueror), and science fiction that is sure to become a timeless classic. The book title is derived from the name and number of its main character, 47. He opens the book by explaining that he has been the same age for the last 170 years, and as the story unfolds, he sets about explaining how.

47 lived a relatively sheltered life as a slave until he was put to work in the cotton fields. Tired from being overworked in the fields, isolated because other field slaves felt he has had it too easy in life, and hurt by his sense of betrayal because the woman who raised him, Big Mama, wouldn't keep him out of the fields, 47 feels dejected, alone and exhausted. All that changes when he meets what he initially thinks is a runaway slave, but later learns is an extraterrestrial being, Tall John. Tall John, who is from beyond Africa, has supernatural powers and has come to help 47 fulfill his destiny. The two form an immediate bond, and in spite of the fact that it takes 47 a while to realize it, fate has brought them together. 47 is awestruck, not only by Tall John's powers, but also by his strength, and for a while he believes that Tall John has come to save him and other slaves. Little does he know, Tall John is only a teacher, sent to share his wisdom, and to prepare 47 so he can someday realize his full potential.

This book is one that is difficult to review because it does so much so well. Mosley seamlessly merges history and fantasy and the result is a page turner that will leave you breathless.
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