2015 Governor General's Literary Award Winner!!Award-winning author Caroline Pignat's new historical novel recreates the world of a Virginia tobacco plantation in 1858. Through the different point
2015 Governor General's Literary Award Winner!!
Award-winning author Caroline Pignat's new historical novel recreates the world of a Virginia tobacco plantation in 1858. Through the different points of view of slaves, their masters and a visiting bird-watcher the world of the plantation comes to live in this verse novel.
Phoebe belongs to Master Duncan and works in the plantation kitchen. She sees how the other slaves are treated — the beatings and whippings, the disappearances. She hasn't seen her mother since Master Duncan sold her ten years ago. But Phoebe is trying to learn words and how to read and when she is asked to show the master's Canadian visitor, Doctor Bergman, where he can find warblers and chickadees she starts to see things differently. And Doctor Bergman has more in mind that just drawing the local birds.
Phoebe's friend Shad works on the plantation as well — but mostly he worries about his brother Will. His brother is the last member of his family and he is determined to escape from the master and the tobacco plantation. He has already been caught and beaten more than once. And the stories about life in Canada can't be true, can they? How does a man survive without the master there taking care of everything?
Author Caroline Pignat was interviewed by CanLit for LittleCanadians blog about The Gospel Truth and the Governor General's finalist announcement. Click here to see the interview.
View Biographical note
Born in Dublin and raised in Ottawa, Caroline Pignat teaches grade 12 Writer's Craft and grade 11 English in Ottawa. She is the Governor General's Award Winning Author of Greener Grass and The Gospel Truth, as well as the critically acclaimed young adult novels Egghead and Wild Geese.
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"Pignat uses titled poetic recountings to tell this story from the perspectives of six characters, cleverly distinguishing each one's voice in the first person. Although Phoebe is mute with an old soul, her vocabulary and inner landscape are rich, her descriptions colourful. . . Young readers are drawn into the brutal and callous world that surrounds Phoebe but does not crush her gentle spirit."
— Canadian Children's Book News
"Hope, bravery and kindness shine from characters in desperate circumstances. With flowing text that will be devoured by reluctant readers and subject matter fit for class discussion, The Gospel Truth is a powerful read."
— CLA Young Adult Book Award Jury
"Stunning and heartbreaking, this poignant novel in verse is a searing portrait of a time and place, 1858 on a southern tobacco plantation where the Master struggles to hold on to the legacy "not people, they're negroes." In poetry that is spare and beautiful, Pignat carefully, exquisitely depicts the reality of that time and of those lives. Here, the things that are left unsaid are as powerful as the harsh and simple truths that are clearly stated. The verse format serves this story well in Pignat's hands. In addition to using this format, she has also chosen to tell the story from multiple perspectives, providing an even more nuanced and multifaceted perspective. Readers are able to see how differently these individuals interpret truth, and even freedom; how each one — in their own way — struggles to do what they perceive to be the right thing; how each person's secrets, hopes and dreams are part of a larger picture. The Gospel Truth is an intricately and beautifully woven story whose characters are vividly and authentically depicted. Each voice is succinctly captured, and the story that the author tells is a realistic rendering of a piece of history that reveals timeless truths about humanity and the indomitable nature of the human spirit."
— CM Magazine
"The power of Caroline Pignat's words would compel me to cite so much of her text. She has the gift for novel in verse, not simply writing prose in verse form. Just as a good novelist doesn't tell everything, allowing the reader to interpret, surmise and read into the text, a great writer of novel in verse tells even more in fewer words. Pamela Porter, Martine Leavitt and now Caroline Pignat. As for the story, think The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill in free verse for younger readers and with more soul. A perfect bundle of story, voice and form?that's The Gospel Truth."
— CanLit for LittleCanadians
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2015 Governor General's Literary Award Winner!!
"Caroline Pignat's The Gospel Truth is the powerful and poignant story of 16-year-old Phoebe, a slave girl in 1858 Virginia. Written in lyrical and elegant free verse, it is an unflinching look at the brutality of slavery and Phoebe's struggle for freedom and truth. Ultimately, this is a story of hope."
— Governor General's Literary Awards Jury
CLA Young Adult Book Award Honour Book 2015
"The Gospel Truth is a novel in verse. It addresses human rights issues and racism with a tale from the time of slavery in the United States and the underground railroad to Canada. Several distinct voices are established as the story unfolds from multiple perspectives. Hope, bravery and kindness shine from characters in desperate circumstances. With flowing text that will be devoured by reluctant readers and subject matter fit for class discussion, The Gospel Truth is a powerful read."
— CLA Jury
Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People finalist, 2015
"While stories of slavery are plentiful, this story of enslavement is unique in its voice, structure and storylines... Phoebe, a young black woman on a Virginian tobacco plantation in 1858, may be attuned to the birds' songs of hope and freedom, but she keeps her own song quiet, having stopped speaking since her mother Ruthie was sold by Master Arnold Duncan ten years earlier... The characters are well rounded and actualized and the story told in free verse in alternative points of view is brought vividly to life through Pignat's pen... Phoebe's story resonates strongly throughout this well-researched and captivating poetic and sparse telling."
Amy Mathers Teen Book Award finalist, 2015
Ottawa Book Award: Finalist in the English Fiction category
2016 Red Maple Fiction Award Honour Book
2016 Diamond Willow Nominee
2017 Rocky Mountain Book Award nominee
On CBC Books' 25 great Canadian #BlackGirlBooks,
a reading list inspired by the #1000blackgirlbooks project created by 11-year-old Marley Dias.
On CanLit for Little Canadians' list of Exceptional Novels in Verse for Young Readers