Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Text used: Dell Publishing Co., Inc.
Laurel-Leaf Library  1980
ISBN: 0-440-96132-7

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Paula Fox

Chapter One: The Errand



to sustain

to prevail



to billow

chamber pot


to blurt out







to prance


to gorge

the bayou




to encounter

to truss

to pole



pipe (3x)





  1. Why are there so many French names in New Orleans?
  2. Why is Jessie's family so poor? What has happened in the past to cause this poverty?
  3. What is his mother's occupation?
  4. What happens to Jessie in this Chapter? What clues are given in Chapter One to give you an idea about what is going on?

Against The Odds

In Chapter One, Jessie's mother is opposed to her son's hanging around the alleyways of New Orleans. Oppose means to "set oneself against someone or something." The root of oppose is the Latin word ponere meaning "to put aside, to set" Ten other words derived from the same root are listed below. Can you use these words correctly in the sentences that follow?











  1. Jessie was born with a happy and carefree _____. (mood and attitude toward life)
  2. Some fancy clothes turned the rugged pirate into an _____ figure. (impressive)
  3. It seems reasonable to _____ that the kidnappers loosened Jessie 's bounds because he couldn't escape anyway. (hold as an opinion, believe)
  4. The pirate s ruthless behaviour helped him win the desired _____ as captain of the ship. (official rank or status)
  5. The pirates failed to _____ of all the evidence of their crime. (systematic destruction)
  6. Jessie s house was directly _____ of a fallen down warehouse. (across from)
  7. Aunt Agathe liked to _____ her ideas on Jessie. (force on the attention of others)
  8. The sale of slaves in the South caused _____ much in the Northern States. (hostile or contrary action)
  9. Aunt Agathe considered helping Jessie's family to be an _____ (excessive requirement or burden)
  10. The idea that Jessie has been shanghaied is no longer a _____ by the end of Chapter One. (hypothesis)

The Setting

A slave auction

In the beginning of a novel, an author will set the scene, because the reader wants to know where and when the action takes place. Customs and conditions vary according to the country and place where the people live and the time in which the events take place. A well researched novel will reveal a great deal of information.

  1. What words does the author use to tell the reader about the setting of Chapter One?
  2. What mood is she trying to create?
  3. To what sense, sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell does the language appeal?
  4. What is the scene in Chapter One?

Timeless Tales

New Orleans ca. 1840

Although The Slavedancer  is set in the 1840's, some of the events in Chapter 1 could happen to a young boy today. For example, his family might be poor as well, a single parent trying hard to get enough food on the table.

The specific details of Jessie's poverty are unique to the 1840's in New Orleans, but the overall situation has universality. That is, people in many places and many times could experience a similar situation.


Listed below are some universal situations in The Slavedancer. Firstly recall and write down the situation from Chapter 1. Then imagine a modern person's experience in the same situation.

Universal situations:

  1. A boy's family is poor and his house just holds the bare necessities.
  2. A family member judges a boy only by his actions and not by the reasons for his actions.
  3. A boy misses his dead father.
  4. A boy is curious about what goes on in another household.
  5. A boy goes into a part of town where he shouldn' t be seen.
  6. A boy is forcibly taken away from his family.

For each of the above

a. mention the experience in the book

b. mention the modern experience

One Step Further

Choose a scene from Chapter 1 and update it by using modern language, setting and situation. While you should change external details about the characters, stay true to the author's characterizations.

Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6 - Chapter 7 - Chapter 8 - Chapter 9