Copper Sun

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Overview

Copper Sun is the epic story of a young girl torn from her African village, sold into slavery, and stripped of everything she has ever known—except hope.

Winner of the 2007 Coretta Scott King Author Award

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Overview

Copper Sun is the epic story of a young girl torn from her African village, sold into slavery, and stripped of everything she has ever known—except hope.

Winner of the 2007 Coretta Scott King Author Award

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A searing work of historical fiction."
Booklist, starred review

"Action-packed, multifaceted, character-rich."
SLJ, starred review

Publishers Weekly
Draper's (Forged by Fire) historical novel takes on an epic sweep as it chronicles the story of 15-year-old Amari, kidnapped from her African village in 1738 and sold into sexual slavery in South Carolina. The horrors of the kidnapping-Amari's parents and little brother are murdered before her eyes-and the Atlantic crossing unwind in exhaustive detail, but the material seems familiar. The story doesn't really take off until Amari reaches her new "home," a rice plantation run by a Snidely Whiplash clone, who presents her to his evil-to-the-core son as a birthday gift. Befriended by the wise cook, a white indentured girl named Polly and the beleaguered mistress of the household, Amari eventually and improbably finds a way to escape. Draper has obviously done her homework, but the narrative wears its research heavily. Every bad thing that befell an African slave either happens to or is witnessed by Amari (e.g., Africans eaten by sharks, children used as live alligator bait, an infant shot dead out of spite). Rape is constant. These lurid elements may appeal to reluctant readers who would normally shy away from historical fiction, but they unfortunately push the story to the brink of melodrama. The author also pulls her punches with a highly implausible happy ending. But after all that Amari has gone through, readers will likely find the conclusion a huge relief. Ages 14-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Sharon Draper is one of young adults' favorite authors of contemporary African American issues. Now she shows equally shining fiction in this her first historical novel. Amari lives in an idyllic African village where she is growing happily into young adulthood with adored parents and a handsome suitor. Suddenly her life is shattered when she sees her parents killed and is taken aboard a slave ship. She suffers a miserable journey only to endure a horrible fate—she is bought by a Carolina plantation owner as a birthday present for his sixteen-year-old son. Draper does not spare her devoted readers any of the sickening details. We suffer as Amari is beaten, raped, and as she observes cruelties that break her heart. Still she has the courage to escape and undertake a harrowing journey into the Spanish-owned Florida territories with a white indentured servant, Polly, who becomes her best friend. The chapters alternate in perspective as these two girls tell a stirring story sure to move young adult readers. 2006, Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, Ages 12 up.
—Susie Wilde
KLIATT
In the classic The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois, speaking of the slaves' sorrow songs, writes, "Through all of the Sorrow Songs there breathes a hope--a faith in the ultimate justice of things." This premise is suggested in Copper Sun, the story of 15-year-old Amira's enslavement and journey to freedom. Purchased as a gift for Clay Derby, Amira's primary purpose is to satisfy him sexually by night and physically as a laborer by day. An excerpt from Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen's poem, "Heritage," opens the novel, bringing to mind one of his earliest books of poetry, Copper Sun, while illuminating the book's theme: what is Africa to me? Quite graphic at times and perhaps a difficult read for some (as is Gary Paulsen's Nightjohn), the atrocities emphasized (e.g., rape, murder, torture) are necessary to convey key questions posed in the novel: How do we understand the resilience of American slaves? How was the treatment of slaves, white women, and poor whites similar, yet different? How does slavery impact contemporary America? Scholars of African American literature argue that authors of contemporary novels about slavery have certain literary freedoms that authors of actual slave narratives did not, as the former were encouraged to write stories that would be endorsed by abolitionists. Draper charters territory few traditional slave narratives dared when she explores a consenting sexual relationship between the Derby mistress and her "bodyguard" that results in the birth of a black daughter, depicts the cook as more than willing to poison her owners when they threaten to sell her only child, and troubles the assumption that all white women were"free." Already being compared to Roots, this novel is best suited for mature YA readers, and accompanied by discussions about early African culture and sensibility, acts of resistance executed by slaves (alone and in partnerships with indentured servants), and abolitionist efforts. KLIATT Codes: S--Recommended for senior high school students. 2006, Simon & Schuster, 308p., Ages 15 to 18.
—KaaVonia Hinton, Ph.D.
VOYA
Despite the book's eighteenth-century setting, fifteen-year-old Amira is much like today's teenagers: She is in love, has an annoying sibling, and avoids her doting mother as much as possible. Reminiscent of Michael Dorris's Morning Girl (Hyperion, 1994), the opening chapters reveal Amira's loving community before "milk-faced" strangers ravage the village, killing the very young and old while kidnapping others. Readers follow along as Amira is taken to the Ivory Coast, survives the Middle Passage, and is sold in the Carolinas to serve as a birthday gift for young Clay Derby. Draper abruptly introduces another narrator, Polly, an ambitious white indentured servant purchased haphazardly by the Derbys. Forced to teach Amira English and appropriate ways to interact on the plantation, Polly become close with Amira-so close that they join together to protect their white mistress and her black newborn. When an opportunity to escape is presented, they take it, heading south to Fort Mose, Florida, a Spanish colony. Draper says that the book took several years to write because of the careful research that it required. A list of sources, along with a brief afterword aimed at teachers ends the book, but readers will also value the prefatory author's note expressing her personal interest in American slavery. Those who appreciated Gary Paulsen's Nightjohn (Delacorte, 1993), Jennifer Armstrong's Steal Away (Orchard, 1992/VOYA August 1992) or Mary E. Lyons' Letters from a Slave Girl: The Story of Harriet Jacobs (Scribner's, 1992/VOYA December 1992) will find a thoughtful book searching for answers about longevity, courage, friendship, and heritage. This reviewer believes it is Draper's best book to date. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Atheneum/S & S, 320p., Ages 12 to 18.
—KaaVonia Hinton-Johnson
KLIATT - KLIATT Review
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, January 2006: In the classic The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois, speaking of the slaves' sorrow songs, writes, "Through all of the Sorrow Songs there breathes a hope--a faith in the ultimate justice of things." This premise is suggested in Copper Sun, the story of 15-year-old Amira's enslavement and journey to freedom. Purchased as a gift for Clay Derby, Amira's primary purpose is to satisfy him sexually by night and physically as a laborer by day. An excerpt from Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen's poem, "Heritage," opens the novel, bringing to mind one of his earliest books of poetry, Copper Sun, while illuminating the book's theme: what is Africa to me? Quite graphic at times and perhaps a difficult read for some (as is Gary Paulsen's Nightjohn), the atrocities emphasized (e.g., rape, murder, torture) are necessary to convey key questions posed in the novel: how do we understand the resilience of American slaves? How was the treatment of slaves, white women, and poor whites similar, yet different? How does slavery impact contemporary America? Scholars of African American literature argue that authors of contemporary novels about slavery have certain literary freedoms that authors of actual slave narratives did not, as the former were encouraged to write stories that would be endorsed by abolitionists. Draper charters territory few traditional slave narratives dared when she explores a consenting sexual relationship between Derby's mistress and her "bodyguard" that results in the birth of a black daughter, depicts the cook as more than willing to poison her owners when they threaten to sellher only child, and troubles the assumption that all white women were "free." Already being compared to Roots, this novel is best suited for mature YA readers, and accompanied by discussions about early African culture and sensibility, acts of resistance executed by slaves (alone and in partnerships with indentured servants), and abolitionist efforts. (An ALA Best Book for YAs, and winner of the Coretta Scott King Award.) Age Range: Ages 15 to 18. REVIEWER: KaaVonia Hinton, Ph.D. (Vol. 42, No. 1)
Jill Adams
Some stories need to be told. Fifteen-year-old Amari's story of slavery is told through Sharon Draper's powerful new novel, Copper Sun. Amari's tale begins in an African village, where she lives with her family. Foreign visitors are given a warm welcome before a blood bath ensues as the visitors kill many villagers or put them in shackles. The slaves' journey to America is brutal, but Amari survives. She is later sold to a plantation owner, who buys her as a gift to his son for his 16th birthday. Life on the plantation is harsh, but Polly (an indentured white servant) helps Amari and later befriends her. After witnessing a brutal murder by the plantation owner, Amari, Polly, and Tidbit (a slave's son) escape captivity and become runaways. Draper masterfully portrays the inhumane realities of slaves' lives in America in this compelling read. Unimaginable horrors are graphically portrayed; there are scenes of rape and bloodshed, including a scene where slave owners use Tidbit as gator bait. These visions allow audiences to not only hear the story, but they enable us to feel the rage and injustices as well.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-This action-packed, multifaceted, character-rich story describes the shocking realities of the slave trade and plantation life while portraying the perseverance, resourcefulness, and triumph of the human spirit. Amari is a 15-year-old Ashanti girl who is happily anticipating her marriage to Besa. Then, slavers arrive in her village, slaughter her family, and shatter her world. Shackled, frightened, and despondent, she is led to the Cape Coast where she is branded and forced onto a "boat of death" for the infamous Middle Passage to the Carolinas. There, Percival Derby buys her as a gift for his son's 16th birthday. Trust and friendship develop between Amari and Polly, a white indentured servant, and when their mistress gives birth to a black baby, the teens try to cover up Mrs. Derby's transgression. However, Mr. Derby's brutal fury spurs them to escape toward the rumored freedom of Fort Mose, a Spanish colony in Florida. Although the narrative focuses alternately on Amari and Polly, the story is primarily Amari's, and her pain, hope, and determination are acute. Cruel white stereotypes abound except for the plantation's mistress, whose love is colorblind; the doctor who provides the ruse for the girls' escape; and the Irish woman who gives the fugitives a horse and wagon. As readers embrace Amari and Polly, they will better understand the impact of human exploitation and suffering throughout history. In addition, they will gain a deeper knowledge of slavery, indentured servitude, and 18th-century sanctuaries for runaway slaves.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Poignant and harrowing, this narrative of early America alternates between the voices of enslaved Amari and indentured servant Polly, building a believable interracial friendship centered on the common goal of freedom. Amari is captured from her idyllic home in Africa, and sold into slavery in the New World. While accounts of the attack on the tribe and the Middle Passage are ephemeral, the story hits its stride upon Amari's arrival in colonial South Carolina. At the slave auction, the reader is introduced to Amari's new masters and Polly, who is a new servant in their household. Polly initially dislikes the African slaves, viewing them as strange competition for limited work, yet grows to sympathize with Amari's plight when she is repeatedly raped by the master's son, Clay. Polly's cynicism and realistic outlook on life provides a welcome contrast to the lost innocence of Amari, whose voice often disappears beneath the misery of her circumstances (save for in one unforgettable passage at the end, where she encounters her betrothed from her village, and mourns the loss of what might have been). Sobering, yet essential. (Historical fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416953487
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 1/1/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 60,107
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 0.90 (h) x 8.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Sharon M. Draper is a New York Times bestselling author who has received the Coretta Scott King Award for both Copper Sun and Forged by Fire. Her Out of My Mind has won multiple awards and is a New York Times bestseller. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she taught high school English for twenty-five years and was named National Teacher of the Year. Visit her at SharonDraper.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Copper Sun


By Sharon M. Draper

Atheneum

Copyright © 2006 Sharon M. Draper
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0689821816

Chapter One: Amari and Besa

"What are you doing up there, Kwasi?" Amari asked her eight-year-old brother with a laugh. He had his legs wrapped around the trunk of the top of a coconut tree.

"For once I want to look a giraffe in the eye!" he shouted. "I wish to ask her what she has seen in her travels."

"What kind of warrior speaks to giraffes?" Amari teased. She loved listening to her brother's tales -- everything was an adventure to him.

"A wise one," he replied mysteriously, "one who can see who is coming down the path to our village."

"Well, you look like a little monkey. Since you're up there, grab a coconut for Mother, but come down before you hurt yourself."

Kwasi scrambled down and tossed the coconut at his sister.

"You should thank me, Amari, for my treetop adventure!" He grinned mischievously.

"Why?" she asked.

"I saw Besa walking through the forest, heading this way! I have seen how you tremble like a dove when he is near."

"You are the one who will be trembling if you do not get that coconut to Mother right away! And take her a few papayas and a pineapple as well. It will please her, and we shall have a delicious treat tonight." Amari could still smell the sweetness of the pineapple her mother had cut from its rough skin and sliced for the breakfast meal that morning.

Kwasi snatched back the coconut and ran off then, laughing and making kissing noises as he chanted, "Besa my love, Besa my love, Besa my love!" Amari pretended to chase him, but as soon as he was out of sight, she reached down into the small stream that flowed near Kwasi's tree and splashed water on her face.

Her village, Ziavi, lay just beyond the red dirt path down which Kwasi had disappeared. She headed there, walking leisurely, with just the slightest awareness of a certain new roundness to her hips and smoothness to her gait as she waited for Besa to catch up with her.

Amari loved the rusty brown dirt of Ziavi. The path, hard-packed from thousands of bare feet that had trod on it for decades, was flanked on both sides by fat, fruit-laden mango trees, the sweet smell of which always seemed to welcome her home. Ahead she could see the thatched roofs of the homes of her people, smoky cooking fires, and a chicken or two, scratching in the dirt.

She chuckled as she watched Tirza, a young woman about her own age, chasing one of her family's goats once again. That goat hated to be milked and always found a way to run off right at milking time. Tirza's mother had threatened several times to make stew of the hardheaded animal. Tirza waved at Amari, then dove after the goat, who had galloped into the undergrowth. Several of the old women, sitting in front of their huts soaking up sunshine, cackled with amusement.

To the left and apart from the other shelters in the village stood the home of the chief elder. It was larger than most, made of sturdy wood and bamboo, with thick thatch made from palm leaves making up the roof. The chief elder's two wives chattered cheerfully together as they pounded cassava fufu for his evening meal. Amari called out to them as she passed and bowed with respect.

She knew that she and her mother would soon be preparing the fufu for their own meal. She looked forward to the task -- they would take turns pounding the vegetable into a wooden bowl with a stick almost as tall as Amari. Most of the time they got into such a good rhythm that her mother started tapping her feet and doing little dance steps as they worked. That always made Amari laugh.

Although Amari knew Besa was approaching, she pretended not to see him until he touched her shoulder. She turned quickly and, acting surprised, called out his name. "Besa!" Just seeing his face made her grin. He was much taller than she was, and she had to stand on tiptoe to look into his face. He had an odd little birthmark on his cheek -- right at the place where his face dimpled into a smile. She thought it looked a little like a pineapple, but it disappeared as he smiled widely at the sight of her. He took her small brown hands into his large ones, and she felt as delicate as one of the little birds that Kwasi liked to catch and release.

"My lovely Amari," he greeted her. "How goes your day?" His deep voice made her tremble.

"Better, now that you are here," she replied. Amari and Besa had been formally betrothed to each other last year. They would be allowed to marry in another year. For now they simply enjoyed the mystery and pleasure of stolen moments such as this.

"I cannot stay and talk with you right now," Besa told her. "I have seen strangers in the forest, and I must tell the council of elders right away."

Amari looked intently at his face and realized he was worried. "What tribe are they from?" she asked with concern.

"I do not think the Creator made a tribe such as these creatures. They have skin the color of goat's milk." Besa frowned and ran to find the chief.

As she watched Besa rush off, an uncomfortable feeling filled Amari. The sunny pleasantness of the afternoon had suddenly turned dark. She hurried home to tell her family what she had learned. Her mother and Esi, a recently married friend, sat on the ground, spinning cotton threads for yarn. Their fingers flew as they chatted together, the pale fibers stretching and uncurling into threads for what would become kente cloth. Amari loved her tribe's design of animal figures and bold shapes. Tomorrow the women would dye the yarn, and when it was ready, her father, a master weaver, would create the strips of treasured fabric on his loom. Amari never tired of watching the magical rhythm of movement and color. Amari's mother looked up at her daughter warmly.

"You should be helping us make this yarn, my daughter," her mother chided gently.

"I'm sorry, Mother, it's just that I'd so much rather weave like father. Spinning makes my fingertips hurt." Amari had often imagined new patterns for the cloth, and longed to join the men at the long looms, but girls were forbidden to do so.

Her mother looked aghast. "Be content with woman's work, child. It is enough."

"I will help you with the dyes tomorrow," Amari promised halfheartedly. She avoided her mother's look of mild disapproval. "Besides, I was helping Kwasi gather fruit," Amari said, changing the subject.

Kwasi, sitting in the dirt trying to catch a grasshopper, looked up and said with a smirk, "I think she was more interested in making love-dove faces with Besa than making yarn with you!" When Amari reached out to grab him, he darted out of her reach, giggling.

"Your sister, even though she avoids the work, is a skilled spinner and will be a skilled wife. She needs practice in learning both, my son," their mother said with a smile. "Now disappear into the dust for a moment!" Kwasi ran off then, laughing as he chased the grasshopper, his bare feet barely skimming the dusty ground.

Amari knew her mother could tell by just the tilt of her smile or a fraction of a frown how she was feeling. "And how goes it with young Besa?" her mother asked quietly.

"Besa said that a band of unusual-looking strangers are coming this way, Mother," Amari informed her. "He seemed uneasy and went to tell the village elders."

"We must welcome our guests, then, Amari. We would never judge people simply by how they looked -- that would be uncivilized," her mother told her. "Let us prepare for a celebration." Esi picked up her basket of cotton and, with a quick wave, headed home to make her own preparations.

Amari knew her mother was right and began to help her make plans for the arrival of the guests. They pounded fufu, made garden egg stew from eggplant and dried fish, and gathered more bananas, mangoes, and papayas.

"Will we have a dance and celebration for the guests, Mother?" she asked hopefully. "And Father's storytelling?"

"Your father and the rest of the elders will decide, but I'm sure the visit of such strangers will be cause for much festivity." Amari smiled with anticipation, for her mother was known as one of the most talented dancers in the Ewe tribe. Her mother continued, "Your father loves to have tales to tell and new stories to gather -- this night will provide both."

Amari and her mother scurried around their small dwelling, rolling up the sleeping mats and sweeping the dirt floor with a broom made of branches. Throughout the village, the pungent smells of goat stew and peanut soup, along with waves of papaya and honeysuckle that wafted through the air, made Amari feel hungry as well as excited. The air was fragrant with hope and possibility.

Copyright © 2006 by Sharon M. Draper

Continues...


Excerpted from Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper Copyright © 2006 by Sharon M. Draper. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

COPPER SUN

By Sharon M. Draper

ABOUT THE BOOK

Amari's life was once perfect. Engaged to the handsomest man in her tribe, adored by her family, and fortunate enough to live in a beautiful village, it never occurred to her that it could all be taken away in an instant. But that was what happened when her village was invaded by slave traders. Her family was brutally murdered as she was dragged away to a slave ship and sent to be sold in the Carolinas. There she was bought by a plantation owner and given to his son as a "birthday present."

Now survival is all Amari can dream about. As she struggles to hold on to her memories, she also begins to learn English and make friends with a white indentured servant named Molly. When an opportunity to escape presents itself, Amari and Molly seize it, fleeing south to the Spanish colony in Florida at Fort Mose. Along the way, their strength is tested like never before as they struggle against hunger, cold, wild animals, hurricanes, and people eager to turn them in for reward money. The hope of a new life is all that keeps them going, but Florida feels so far away and sometimes Amari wonders how far hopes and dreams can really take her.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sharon M. Draper, 1997 National Teacher of the Year, is an award-winning author and educator. Her books for young adults include Tears of a Tiger, Forged by Fire (winner of the 1998 Coretta Scott King Award), Darkness Before Dawn, Romiette and Julio, Double Dutch, The Battle of Jericho (winner of the 2004 Coretta Scott King Honor Award), and Copper Sun, as well as the popular books for younger readers in the Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs series. She has worked with teachers, students, schools, conferences, and educational organizations all over the world, spreading the word about the power of education and the magic of reading. Visit her Web site at www.sharondraper.com.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. Copper Sun is a work of historical fiction. How does the blending of history and fiction make for a successful story? Which elements are purely fictional? Which elements are basically historical? Why does learning history through fiction make the story more memorable? How does this method of telling the story affect the reader's response?

2. The very first page, just before chapter one, tells of a slave sale and how it must feel to be fifteen years old, stripped naked, and standing on the auction block. Describe the feelings and fears of the girl being sold. What predictions can the reader make about the girl and the rest of the story?

3. As you first meet Amari, even though she lives in the Africa of two hundred years ago, how is she like many fifteen-year-old girls today? How is she different? What strengths do you find in her family and home life? What negatives do you observe?

4. How is the relationship between Besa and Amari similar to teen relationships today? How is it different? Describe how Amari feels about him. What predictions can you make about their future together?

5. Describe the relationship between Amari and her parents, and between Amari and her little brother, Kwasi. How does the strength of her family make a difference in her life?

6. What do you know of the village of Ziavi from the descriptions given in the text? How would you describe the social structure, family structure, and cultural structure of the community? How did the custom of graciousness to guests become a death sentence for the town? Explain why the Ashanti helped the European killers.

7. Besa's great skill and source of pleasure is his drum playing. The people of the village love music and singing and dancing and self-expression. Explore the importance of artistic influences on individuals as well as groups of people. How can self-expression be used as a tool for helping or healing?

8. Amari's parents are killed, along with most of the people in her village. How do you think you would react in the same situation? What options does Amari have? What option does Tirza choose and why? What option does Kwadzo choose and why? Why does Amari continue on? Describe what you think Amari is thinking as they are forced to walk across the countryside.

9. Describe the horrors of Cape Coast Castle, the Door of No Return, and the branding on the beach. How does Amari survive? What necessary survival techniques would you have to develop to survive those experiences?

10. Amari makes friends with people who help her survive, who give her the strength she needs at a crucial time in her life. Describe her relationship with Afi and explain the long- range and short-range influence of Afi on Amari's life.

11. Describe the Middle Passage as described in the novel. What is it about human beings that makes one person mistreat another? What is it about humans that makes us survive in spite of it?

12. Why do you think Bill decides to teach Amari English? What does this tell you about him? Why is learning the language a powerful tool for Amari?

13. Describe Amari's feelings as she is sold. What does she NOT know about her future that the reader probably does know? What would you have done in the same situation?

14. Discuss the character of Polly and how she comes across as we first meet her. What kind of life has she had? How does her past explain her attitudes? What advantages does Polly have in the society and in the story?

15. Discuss the first meeting between Polly and Amari. Why is this part of the story told from Polly's point of view?

16. How do Teenie and Tidbit and Hushpuppy add color and flavor to life on the plantation? What are their attitudes about being slaves? Give specific examples.

17. Discuss the character of Clay and his complicated feelings for Amari. Does he have any redeeming qualities, or is he purely a negative character? What about Clay's father? Does he have any redeeming qualities, or is he purely a negative character?

18. Explain the title of the novel. Why does the title have more than one possible interpretation? Find several examples of references to "copper sun" within the story.

19. Discuss the gradual development of the relationship between Polly and Amari. How is each girl unique? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each? What does each girl offer that the other needs? What makes a friendship?

20. How is Mrs. Derby almost like a slave herself? What predictions did you make about Mrs. Derby and Noah? What foreshadowing is given to prepare the reader for what happens?

21. Why would Mr. Derby be socially and legally justified by what he did to Noah and the baby? Why didn't Dr. Hoskins speak up? Why is tragedy more memorable and more powerful than happiness in a novel?

22. What was the overall effect of the gator bait scene? How do you think Tidbit felt when he was in the water? How do you think his mother felt? Amari tried to object, but endangered Tidbit by doing so. How do you think she felt?

23. Why didn't more slaves rise up and protest or fight back? What social and cultural pieces were in place to prevent it?

24. Discuss the argument between Amari and Polly over whether to go north or south. Why was it extremely unusual to choose a southern route? What does this show about Amari's personality?

25. On the journey we find out more about Polly's family and her background. How did Polly's parents and her relationship with them shape the person that Polly became?

26. Describe the difficulties of traveling by night, all alone, with no food and no real guarantee that the place you are heading to really exists. How would you have survived the trip? What seemed to be the most difficult for the travelers?

27. What does Amari learn about herself, her past, and her future through her reunion with Besa?

28. How do you think Amari, Polly, and Tidbit felt when they finally reached their destination? What was disappointing about the place when they finally saw it? What was reassuring?

29. What predictions can you make about Amari in the next five years? Will the three of them still be together or will Polly have gone off on her own? How has Amari grown and changed?

30. What did you learn about Africa, the Middle Passage, slavery, and African-American history that you did not know before? How has it changed your thinking, if any?

ACTIVITIES & RESEARCH

1. You are a reporter at one of the following scenes. Write the story for your newspaper.

• The destruction of Ziavi

• A day in Cape Coast Castle

• A day on the slave ship

• A day on a plantation

• For a slave

• For a slave owner

• The day Teenie found out Tidbit was alive

• Clay and the snake

2. Minor characters are often very important in the development of a story. How do the following characters influence the journey of Amari, Polly, and Tidbit? How do they balance some of the horror that had previously happened?

• Dr. Hoskins

• Cato

• Nathan

• Fiona

• Besa

• The Spanish soldier

• Inez

• Captain Menendez

3. Find a map of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida and trace the route that the three travelers might have taken as they walked from Columbia, South Carolina, to St. Augustine, Florida. How long would the trip have taken if they had been able to go by boat? What if they had been able to go by car?

4. Research the history of slavery in the United States. Look up the Triangle Trade and find out why selling human beings was one of the most profitable business ventures available.

5. Write a letter to one of the characters in the book explaining your feelings about the events in the story. What advice would you give Amari, or Polly, or Mrs. Derby, or Teenie or Besa? What would you say to Clay?

6. Imagine it is one year after the end of the novel. Create a conversation between the following characters:

• Polly to Amari

• Amari to Polly

• Amari to Tidbit

• Polly to Nathan

• Amari to Inez

7. In journal form, write the life of Mrs. Derby for several months. Include details about her inability to live her own life as she sees fit.

8. Trace the story of one of the following characters. Imagine you are a reporter doing a story on one of their lives. Write everything you know, as well as whatever you can infer about the character in order to write your magazine article.

• Besa

• Clay

• Teenie

• Inez

• Dr. Hoskins

9. Write a biography of Clay Derby, focusing on his childhood. Include details about his mother, his father, his stepmother, and his thoughts while growing up or write a biography of Polly, focusing on her childhood. Include details about her mother, her father, and her thoughts while growing up.

10. All of Teenie's witticisms are authentic southern sayings. Look up the development of such sayings and how they reflect the culture of the south. Find out if the language patterns are racial or cultural in nature.

WRITING ACTIVITIES

1. POINT OF VIEW PAPER

• "Polly watched, fascinated, as the girl squirmed and screeched and babbled incoherently. Polly wondered if Negroes from Africa had feelings and intelligent thoughts, or if that gibberish they spoke was more like the screaming of monkeys or the barking of dogs...The young Master Derby carried a small whip, and he used it liberally to make Noah work faster. Polly noticed the slave breathed slowly and loudly, as if he were tense, but he made no attempt to stop the young man from hitting him. She was always amazed at how much abuse slaves took without it seeming to bother them. Perhaps they didn't feel pain the way others did — she wasn't sure."

Read the quote above and explain how the point of view of the character who makes the observation influences the description. What is slanted about the descriptions given? Why is personal observation not always fair and unbiased? Use examples from the book to support your statements.

2. DESCRIPTIVE PAPER

• "The first path they traveled was the long road that led from their village to the big river several miles away. It seemed as if even the trees bowed their heads as they passed. The birds, normally full of chatter, were silent as the group marched past them for the last time...The sunset that evening was unlike any Amari had ever seen. The spirit of the copper sun seemed to bleed for them as it glowed bright red against the deepening blue of the great water. It sank slowly, as if saying farewell. The shadows deepened and darkness covered the beach."

Using the passage above as a guide, write a descriptive paper that uses sensory imagery. Use vivid verbs and powerful adjectives and adverbs as you write. Use as many of the senses as you can—sight, sound, smell, touch, taste — as well as deep, rich colors.

3. NARRATIVE PAPER

• "Before she had a chance to absorb it all, a man dragged her to what looked like a goat pen. A fire burned brightly in the center of it, even though the day was very warm, and the man was steering her toward it, Amari realized with fear. Was she going to be cooked and eaten now? Why couldn't she have died with her family? she thought wildly. Panicked, she tried to pull away from the man, but his grip only tightened."

Write a narrative paper from the point of view of a slave who cannot speak the language of his captors and who does not understand what is going on or why. Tell their story as they try to grasp the enormity of what is happening to them.

4. RESEARCH PAPER — Choose one of the following research topics:

• 4a. "This be Fort Mose?" Amari asked, wanting to be absolutely sure they were in the right place.

"Sure is, chile. Gracia Real de Santo Teresa de Mosé."

"I done dream of this place," Amari said softly, "for very long time."

Fort Mose was a real place. Even though it is now underwater off the coast of Florida, it really existed and it offered safe haven to runaways. Research as much as you can about the place and how it operated. Find out about the museums and historical locations that celebrate its existence.
• 4b. "Huge doors opened and they were led inside. The bright sunlight was suddenly gone, and she had to adjust her eyes to the dismal gloom inside the structure. It smelled to her of blood and death. She could hear terrifying wails that seemed to be coming from the walls of the place."
Cape Coast Castle is a real place. Its remains still stand on the coast of Ghana, West Africa. Look up all you can on the castle. Find out about the cells, the number of slaves kept there, and what happened to those who passed through those gates.
• 4c. "Polly had never been this far from the big house. She had heard of the rice fields, but she stood amazed at what she saw. Two dozen black men and women, knee-deep in thick mud, bent over the delicate-looking rice plants. There was no shade anywhere, and Polly could see thick rivulets of sweat running down their faces. They moved slowly, joylessly."
Rice played an important role in the lives of the people on the plantation. Research the development of the rice crop in South Carolina and how it increased the need for slavery. Explain why it was necessary to bring in a rice crop.

5. EXPOSITORY PAPER

• "Amari shuffled in the dirt as she was led into the yard and up onto a slightly raised wooden table, which she realized gave the people in the yard a perfect view of the women who were to be sold. She looked at the faces in the sea of pink-skinned people who stood around pointing to them and jabbering in their language as each of the slaves was described. She looked for pity or even understanding, but found nothing but cool stares. They looked at her as if she were a cow for sale."

Write an expository (explanatory) paper on slave auctions and how they were carried out. Tell about the financial and economic gains that slavery brought to the buyers and sellers.

6. COMPARISON PAPER

• "I think we have arrived in a backwards world — where black skins are few and not respected, and pale skins seem to rule," Amari commented quietly.

• "Polly looked back at the slave sale. The women were wailing and acting as if something terrible was happening to them. Polly snorted and turned away. Living here in the colonies had to be better than living like a savage in the jungle. They ought to be grateful, she thought. She thought of the Negroes she'd known as a child — well-fed and happy slaves, with no worries about finding employment. No, she had no sympathy."

Write a paper that compares the subject of slavery from the slaves' points of view to slavery from the point of view of the dominant culture.

7. PERSUASIVE PAPER

• "'So why should I endure this? Why did you not let me just die in there?' Amari cried out.

'Because I see a power in you.' Afi lifted her shackled wrist and reached over to touch Amari. 'You know, certain people are chosen to survive. I don't know why, but you are one of those who must remember the past and tell those yet unborn.'"

• "Teenie touched Amari gently on her head, 'You got a strong spirit, Myna.' Amari just shrugged. She could see no reason for having such a strong spirit, nor could she see any hope in her future. She just survived each day. However, she couldn't help but think of Afi, who kept her alive during the horrors of the voyage to this place by telling her the same thing."

Write a persuasive paper that argues ONE of the following points:

• All human beings are given strong spirits in order to withstand the difficulties of life.

• Only certain individuals are given the strength of spirit needed to endure the difficulties of life.

• Certain individuals are chosen to survive to tell of the past to the next generation.

Whether you agree or disagree, your paper should address only one side of the issue. Use specific examples from the novel to support your points.

8. CHARACTER SKETCH

Write a character sketch of Tidbit — what made him unique — his personality, his charm, his love of life. Use specific examples from the book to illustrate your points.

9. POETRY

• "Polly pulled a leaf from an oak tree. 'Freedom is a delicate idea — like a pretty leaf in the air — it's hard to catch, and may not be what you thought when you get it," she observed quietly.

• "'Freedom not big. Freedom not pretty, Amari declared.' 'But freedom sure do feel good.'"

Write a poem about one of the following topics, or any topic of your choosing that seems to fit the themes of the novel:

• The Power of Hope

• Broken Mind, Broken Spirit

• Unbroken Mind, Unbroken Spirit

• Unlikely Friends

• The Beauty of Small Things

• The Middle Passage

• Death in the Night

• A Moment of Silence

• Glory Days

Vocabulary Define the following from the context of the novel:

Cassava

Fufu

Kente cloth

Ewe tribe

Ashanti tribe

Shackles

Coffle

Middle Passage

Indenture

Colony

Auction

Chattel

Manacles

Persecution

Prejudice

Discrimination

Servitude

Trafficking

For Further Discussion and Dialogue

on the Subject of Slavery and Freedom

1. A student recently said, "I don't care about slavery. That happened a long time ago, and I don't want to think about it in my life today. It is no longer important." What do you think about that statement? Tell why you agree or disagree. What would you tell that student if you had the chance to have a conversation?

2. Students in the United States enjoy lots of freedom. List some of the freedoms that you enjoy. Were these privileges always available to everyone? What might someone have had to do in order to make sure you have these freedoms? How does that make you feel about the privileges you enjoy?

3. Think back to when you were born. From that time to today is your history, and it is important. You learned, you made mistakes, and you grew. Discuss the importance of knowing your own personal history. Why is it important to study historical information about a country or a people? Why can't the past simply be ignored?

4. What happens if a rule or a law or a practice in a country is immoral or wrong? Who decides if it is right or wrong? What is done to change that law or rule or practice? How does one decide what to do?

5. Slavery was a period of extreme degradation of one group of people by another. What do you think were the short-term and long-term effects of slavery on both groups?

6. Discuss the destruction of slave families as people were bought and sold with no regard to their family structure. When slavery ended, what was the long-range result of this family destruction?

7. Estimate how many people were sold as slaves inside the United States between 1700 and the end of the Civil War. What was the long-term result?

8. Research advertisements for the sale of slaves during the internal slave trade. Analyze their impact on slaves.

9. Explain how slavery was an integral force in the shaping of American history.

10. The Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery, but did it end discrimination? Discuss discrimination as it exists in our world today.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 128 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2009

    LOVE THiS!!

    When I 1st got CopperSun it really didnt interest me...but when i got into the 3rd chapter I couldn't put it down! You must read it!! Oh and might I add I'm 12...and Im not the kind of girl who likes to read about scared little bratty kids..that's just LAME!! Sharon M. Draper makes books that are REAL! And that's what engulf's readers like me..Thank You.

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Cana Rensberger for TeensReadToo.com

    I have been a fan of Sharon M. Draper for some time. She is a master at writing realistic fiction. COPPER SUN is her first historical fiction and it is amazing -- as well as frighteningly authentic. <BR/><BR/>This book follows the trials and tribulations of Amari, a fifteen-year-old African maiden. After witnessing the slaughter of both the old and young in her African village, including her parents and her young brother, she is chained, by feet, hands, and neck, lined up, and herded miles on foot to the ocean by pale skinned visitors with fire sticks. She watches her fellow Africans suffer incomprehensible humiliation and death at the hands of their captors as they are shipped like animal cargo across the ocean. The life that awaits her is nothing like she could have ever imagined. <BR/><BR/>Amari must adapt to life as a purchased slave on a rice plantation, a life that includes atrocities committed upon her by her white owners. She meets Polly, an indentured servant who has dreams of making it to the big house and being a fine lady of standing. Instead, Polly lives in the slave quarters and finds she's given the chore of civilizing Amari, now called Myna, and teaching her enough English to work. After witnessing murder, the two girls find themselves thrown together in a desperate run for freedom. <BR/><BR/>This is not just another book about slavery. This is a book about something real and tangible. Ms. Draper's writing is so vivid that you can smell the rank odors beneath ship. You can feel the pain of being lashed with a whip. Your throat will constrict at the heart-wrenching pain of a mother and child being forced apart. You will also celebrate the strength and spirit of Amari and those she inspires. <BR/><BR/>COPPER SUN won the Coretta Scott King Award. This is a book I will make sure goes on my classroom shelves.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2008

    Copper Sun!! THE BEST!!!!

    This book taught children how slavery was back in the days. It also taught me how fortunate I am to live in this period of life.. The author brought emotional life to horrible details of slavery. From the beginning, I became sightful of the heartbreaking journey of Amari, a 15-year-old African girl captured and used as slave in 1738. She was raped, beaten, and abused constantly. The story begins in Amari¿s village, but the scene explodes in bloodshed tears when slave captures arrive in her village and murders her family.Amari and her boyfriend, Besa, are shackled, and that begun unthinkable horrors from the slave fort, the Middle Passage, and auction on American shores, where a rice plantation owner buys Amari for his 16-year-old son's sexual enjoyment. In brutal happenings, the author shows the cruel things happened. But the last chapter was overwhelming with brutal facts of slavery and Amari's brave survivor's spirit, left me breathless.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2011

    Copper Sun Book Review Project!

    Amari is a fifteen year old young woman whose life is about to change before her eyes. Afer seeing her mom and young brother get slaughtered, Ameri now has to go on a long journey to the Americas.Ameri saw others get beaten, raped, and killed on her never ending journey. They were shipped like animal cargo across the ocean to a desturbing world. In America they would be sold off to be slaves for plantation owners. All Ameri dreams about is freedom and how good life was in Africa. The life she has to live now was nothing she had ever imagined. Amari must get use to her new life as a slave on a rice plantation with white owners. She meets a girl named Polly, an indentured servent, who olny wishes to work in the main house. After Amari, now named Myna, and Polly witness a murder they now have a chance to run for freedom. This book is amazing and it leaves you wanting to learn more about slavery. It also changes your perspective about slvery and what families went through back in slavery time.I recommend it for every class to read. Copper Sun won The Corretta Scott King award.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2013

    Ahhh Omg!!

    THIS NEED TO BE MOVIE FORREAL!!"

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2012

    omg!!!!!!! sharon m draper has done it again

    this book is the most awesome book by sharon draper she really did great with researching and writing this book and i wouldnt have even known there were indentured servants until i read this book i love you sharon m draper and i have read all her books and loved them

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 19, 2012

    This is one of the most powerful books I've ever read.

    This is one of the most powerful books I've ever read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2012

    Love this book

    This is an amazing book! Anyone who likes historical fiction should read it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 19, 2010

    Coppersun Book Review

    This book was full of surprising events. It was definately a page turner. From the very first page this book had you asking questions. It was a fast read. Amari, the main character, had to battle, and survive many obstacles that came into her pathway. Throughout book, the author shows you through the obstacles that Amari faced, that she was indeed, a very strong person. She didn't become strong overnight. It took her a while to get a grasp on things. But, through it all, she learned to have faith, be strong, and never give up no matter what. Although this book, left me at a clift. It was stil very amazing. If i could change any thing about this book it would be to continue on the story about what happens at the end.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    My favorite book in the World!!

    I L.O.V.E this book i could read it over and over again it makes you want to cry, happy and sad tears. S. Draper could have never made an even better book!!! I love Sharon Draper she is such a talented author!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2014

    Like, oh my gosh, I love this book! I just can't so reading this

    Like, oh my gosh, I love this book! I just can't so reading this book. It is a very emotional story. I MOST READ BOOK.
    PS- I was a 12 year old boy that do not like reading book, but this book got me insprire. Now I am 15 years old that own the book and rereading it again. It is a book that I will cherish forever. Not a lot of book get me. So when I book got me, it is a VERY GOOD BOOK then. Because I am stubborn reader. Ha Ha.
    But really this is a VERY EPIC BOOK!
    HAPPY READINGS

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2013

    Best book ever

    I love the story and how it ends. Best book ever

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2013

    Y

    The character Clay Durby creeps me out. Weirdo alert!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2013

    I had to read this book for English class, GLAD I DID. This is a

    I had to read this book for English class, GLAD I DID. This is a huge eye opener to the way the world used to be. It is very entertaining because it's not like other novels about slaves. This book portrays what happens to ANYONE who goes against slavery. There's a ton of action and it's a great adventure. I recommend it to anyone who loves violence, drama, and action. If this book was made into a movie it would be on LifeTime Movie Network.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2013

    Greeattt

    This book.is an amazing piece of litature. It does contain alot of mature content. I dont recomend it to anyone under 13. I read it in school in 8th grade

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2013

    Copper Sun is such a fantastic book. I was overwhelmed when I fi

    Copper Sun is such a fantastic book. I was overwhelmed when I finished reading this. The book is based on the time of the slave trade; it follows a young girl named Amari just at the age of 15 has to go through all the horrible things she went through. Life was perfect for Amari she was getting married soon. Life was great. As soon as the Europeans arrived Amari knew they were trouble. She meets a lady called Afi, who tells her all about why they have been captured. Amari could not believe anything Afi said about being sold she thought she was crazy .This Book talks about her Journey to the Americas. The “slaves” were branded and the “white” men as the people called them threw salty sea water on “slaves”. She was sold to a very cruel man called Mr. Derby. Amari often thought about her life back home, her friends, her parents who were killed in front of her, but most importantly Kwasi her little brother he was shot with an arrow that sliced threw his body like he was a tomato. Mr. Derby Bought Amari as a birthday present for his son Clay (who violently raped her night after night). Meet Polly a girl paying of her parent’s debt who is the same age as Amari. Polly thought she was better than Amari but as the story goes on she is no better than Amari. Mrs. Derby was about 8 months pregnant with what Mr. Derby thought was his baby But that’s not the case she was having Noah’s baby a slave she has had since she was a little girl who she was madly in love with. Polly and Amari try to help Mrs. Derby hide the baby from Mr. Derby. Mr. Derby finds out anyhow and Shoots Noah and The baby in front of everyone……………………. This is an amazing book and it makes you appreciate the little things in life, just think about all the horrible things she goes through getting raped, whipped and beaten every day. READ to find what happens to Amari if she and Polly Escape, who’s baby she has, and her struggle to find the Copper SUN ¿
    -Thea Wallen


    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2012

    Awsome

    I couldn't put the book sown as soon as i got it! If you haven't read this book before then you sould get it and read it. Either go and bye it (whitch i would do) or go and get it at the library. I don't care just go and read it. If you never read it then you will regret not reeading it. The book was that good! It did shock me at the end though.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2012

    To the person who said bogus

    You obviously didnt read the book. Use your brain a little more and you could enjoy this powerful beautiful story. And if you had maybe explained why you thought the book was useless maybe i would listen to your argument. But i know thats much to hard for you.so just go somewhere sit down shut up like the ignoramus you are. Now back to the book.
    One word
    Inspiring
    Amari inspires me to push for respect faith and hope. I know some people are too dumb to get that

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2012

    Made me cry! (:(

    This book is so sad! Well writtten heart wrenching tale of a slave. The best slave novel ever written by far.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2012

    This is book is very well written with a lot of good historical

    This is book is very well written with a lot of good historical information. The author did a great job having twists and turns throughout the novel. Once i started this book, i could not put it down! Great book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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