Witness by Karen Hesse


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.

16 Responses to “Witness by Karen Hesse”

  1. Kate says:

    I would like to learn about all characters in the book not just a few please! thnks much!

  2. ching- chong says:

    Can you give me some non articles related somehow to the book witness? Please tell me 5 reasons how it ties with the book. thx!

  3. Kassidy says:

    I really liked this book it was a fresh pewrspective of that time period. Her other book OUT OF THE DUST is really good to

  4. hope says:

    i really didnt like the book it didnt intrest me was to confusing and i have to do an outline and i cant find a passege to describe it.

  5. Tommy says:

    The book was good

  6. andrew says:

    This is probably the best nonfiction book that i have ever read. The way that the author grasps the dialect in that region is poor though

  7. Jen Hubert says:

    Andrew, this is a historical FICTION, not NON-fiction book.

  8. Cara Hope says:


    It was good. Meaning a lot of thought went into it. And I enjoyed that.

    Did it interest me? No.
    Did it make want to keep reading? No.
    Do I love it? No.
    Do I hate it? No.
    Do I like it? Yes.

    3 out of 5 stars.

  9. hi says:

    good report i love it very much it is a very good book for kids.I give it a 5 star out of5

  10. Stan the Man says:

    This book really opened my eyes to all the racial criticism that happened when this book took place. Because of the maturity of this book, I would recommend it to people around the ages of 14.

  11. [pretty in pink] says:

    uhhh, yea… i really want to know about MORE characters, cuz i have to write an essay about each one thats due tomoro!! –gosh– well, i’d really appreciate it if you mentioned more, cuz this does NOT help with my essay…

  12. um.. the book was good a little confusing but good i have to do a opinon paper on it and it was due today but i forgot it at my house! but im stilll gettin credit and because i forgot the auther so this webosite is ok 0 out of 5 stars.

  13. Essence V says:

    I love this book. Im reading it in English and i find it very fascinating. I would reccomend this book to anyone who wants to learn the raw truth of racism in the early 1900’s. I especially like how it is writtem in poem-like stanzas.

  14. A cause says:

    i love this book… especially the poems

  15. Jill says:

    this book was really boring..i had to read it for school 🙁

  16. Rockin Pink: says:

    It was kind of confusing. It did not have the feeling of reading more.But, good job on effort. Ummm… Shout out to all 12 year olds

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Jen Hubert Swan
Librarian, Book Reviewer,
Reading Addict