Twelve year old African American Leonora Sutter is running scared. Even though she and her father have dealt with racism before (after all, this is 1924, before Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement) she is terrified of what will happen to them now that the Klu Klux Klan has come to their small Vermont town. Who among the townspeople can she trust not to don white hoods after dark? Will Constable Johnson help her family if there is trouble, or is he one of THEM? On which side is general store owner Harvey Pettibone? Or Mrs. Sara Chickering, the lady farmer who avoids Leonora, but has a little Jewish girl staying with her? The tension builds as Leonora tries to decide who to put her faith in during these dangerous times. Witness is written entirely in free-verse poetry, each poem being the inner thoughts of eleven different characters (including Leonora, Harvey and Sara) about how they feel about the KKK setting up shop in their town. Everyone thinks they know which side is right and which side is wrong, but when a furtive gunman opens fire on Sara Chickering’s house, each person must painfully reevaluate their position. Besides being a wonderfully deep examination of racism and identity, Witness is also a great history mystery. Note the clues each character drops to help you figure out who the guilty shooter is.
Witness by Karen Hesse