The Slave Dancer

by Paula Fox
152 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Clodsley S.

Dry, stiff historical novel is more history and depression rather than entertainment.


13-year-old Jessie Bollier finds himself on "The Moonlight" after being captured by two sailors. He becomes the slave dancer, the one who exercises the slaves in order to keep them healthy until they're sold. On his journey he sees the horrors of the slavers and the greed of Triangular Trade.


All of the sailors on the "Moonlight" think that slavery is fine as long as it provides them with money. The only real good and evil here is Jessie vs. Slavery, and Jessie remains good and Slavery remains bad.

Spiritual Content

The only Christian on the ship, Ned Grime, is seen as a pompous, pious man who thinks only of himself. "Oh, God" is uttered by Jessie a few times. Some sailors seem superstitious.


Whipping, flogging, torture, and shooting are all described vividly. The slaves and the crew come down with a number of illnesses that are all described in some form. Some descriptions of seizures and bloody flux are nauseating. At one point in the book, there is a storm and all of the crew members except Jessie and a slave boy survive. The slaves are thrown overboard. Jessie sees the bodies of the crew and at one point even touches one. The Captain bites Jessie's ear.

Drug and Alcohol Content

The slavers drink and get drunk on several occasions.

Sexual Content

Jessie recalls looking through windows to see women disrobing. The slaves on the ship are mostly naked, wearing only a few scraps of clothing.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

"D-mn" is used frequently, "h-ll" is used in the correct way and the incorrect way. "n-gger" is used as well. The Captain calls a crew member "Irish bucket" and Jessie "bollweevil". Other insults are thrown out.


While the author struggles to be entertaining and historical, the story falls flat. It's a great, historically based book, but the entertainment and overall voice of the book is rather dry and boring. The action goes very fast and some of the things that happen are very confusing. The characters needed a bit more time to develop, or at least, more than the 152 pages the author put them in. If you're looking for a riveting adventure rather than a history book, don't turn to 'The Slave Dancer'.

Fun Score: 3
Values Score: 3.5
Written for Age: 13+

Review Rating:

Did we miss something? Let us know!

Clodsley S. This review is brought to you by Clodsley S..
Read more reviews by Clodsley S.