The Astonishing Life of Octavion Nothing

Anderson, M. (2006). The astonishing life of Octavion Nothing, Traitor for the Nation. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.


Octavion Nothing is a historical fiction book about a (African-American) boy who is being brought up as both a slave and a lord. Hard to believe, right? He is an experiment at his school, where the head of his school wants to show that African Americans can be just as smart as non-African Americans. The school wants Octavion to be completely removed from emotion (like a real scientist) and makes his watch as his dog dies and other animals being killed while experimented on. As his education goes on, his school is overtake by men who don’t agree with Octavion’s original education, and things change. Octavion leaves school and his group gets smallpox, which kills his mother (and he has to watch her be dissected). This causes Octavion to escape but is caught and taken back to his school. At the end of the story, Octavion is helped by one of his tutors to escape and he heads to Boston. I would give this book to upper high school students because of its complexity and some of the scenes are more graphic than what ninth to tenth graders would be used to. I thought it had a great display of how some people are slaves without actually serving others.


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