Julius Lester

Lester, J. 2008. Guardian. NY: HarperCollins.



It is 1946 in Davis, Georgia, and it is a time of hatred. Rampant is the racism that is known of the old South, where “negroes” are treated as third-class citizens. 14-year old Ansel witnesses a murder, but the perpetrator is the white son of the richest man in town, Zeph Davis. Zeph blames Ansel’s best friend’s father, a negro, Big Willie, and Ansel doesn’t defend him. This haunts Ansel, and changes everything in his town, from his family to his friends. After the lynching of Big Willie, nothing will ever be the same.

Quantitative Summary:

Lexile: 870L

ATOS Book Level: 5.2

Interest Level:   UG (9-12)

Qualitative Summary:

This book is a short read, and very powerful in its portrayal of hatred and racism. I think in terms of narrative complexity it is a middle-high because the point of view can change between first person and third-omniscient, and studies many characters. The meaning seemed to be middle low – a single level of complex meaning ( a historical look at racism). The language was brutal at times and meant for a high school audience and above.

Curriculum Ties

This book would be great in a US History class when dealing with Civil Rights and historical accounts of racism. I think it would be a good contemporary companion to a book like To Kill a Mockingbird, especially as the main character could be more relatable to a teenager.



US History 9-12


  • 4. Analyze the major developments, controversies and consequences of the civil rights movements from 1968 to 1980 (5.5.4).

English 9-12

Objective 1.2.1: The student will determine the contributions of literary elements in classical and contemporary literary texts. ECLG 1.2.1, ADP H
Grades 9 and 10
The student will
 Determine the significance of the following as each contributes to the meaning of a text: 
o plot sequence of events (including foreshadowing and flashback), cause-and-effect relationships, and events 
that are exposition, climax or turning point, resolution* ECLG 1.2.1, ADP H4
o characters’ defining traits, motivations, and developments throughout the text* ECLG 1.2.1, ADP H4
o details that provide clues to the setting, the mood created by the setting, and the role the setting plays in the text* ECLG 1.2.1
o conflicts that motivate characters and those that serve to advance the plot* ECLG 1.2.1
o the perspective of the author or speaker as well as the effects of first or third person narration and multiple narrators within and across text(s)* ECLG 1.2.1
o narration, dialogue, dramatic monologue, asides, soliloquies, and character foils ADP H4 o various literary devices, including figurative language, imagery, allegory, and symbolism
 Identify the specific structural elements of particular literary forms (e.g., short story, novel, drama, poetry, essay, biography, autobiography, journalistic writing, film) ECLG 1.1.5, ADP H3 
Grades 11 and 12
The student will
 Analyze characters’ motivations, actions, and development as they relate to the experiences, emotions, moral dilemmas and ambiguities in a work of literature ADP H8 
 Analyze how voice, persona, and the choice of narrator affect the characterization, mood, tone, plot and credibility of a text 
 Analyze the contribution of dramatic monologue, chorus, asides, soliloquies, and character foils to the development of character, plot, and theme ADP H6 

 Analyze the characteristics of particular literary subgenres (e.g., satire, farce, parody, allegory, pastoral, epic, elegy, ode) as they relate to theme and purpose ADP H3

Author website:

Notable distinctions:

  • National Book Award Finalist
  • Coretta Scott King Award
  • Newbery Honor Author