cover image The Adventures of High John the Conqueror

The Adventures of High John the Conqueror

Steve Sanfield. Orchard Books (NY), $12.95 (113pp) ISBN 978-0-531-05807-7

The 16 segments of this collection are filled with the laudable escapades of High John the Conqueror, a fellow about whom slaves told trickster stories (that somehow never reached the ears of white owners). In one tale, which vividly illustrates the truism ``knowledge means power,'' John (who is determined to be the smartest slave on the plantation) sits under the kitchen window nightly, listening to Master and Missy's conversations. Each night Master outlines a different task John will be assigned the following day. When Master goes to inform John of the task, John either has the job underway or completed. Master, believing John to be omniscient, bets the plantation on the slave's ability. What follows that bet (and courses through all these stories) is a combination of remarkable folktelling with the ironic circumstances wrought by human beings making slaves of other human beings. A superior companion to Afro-American Folktales edited by Roger D. Abrahams. A Richard Jackson Book. Ages 8-up. (Mar.)