The Story of Jonas

Maurine F. Dahlberg

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Jonas has lived all of his thirteen years on a farm in Missouri, and even though he hears whispers about freedom, he thinks he’ll never try to escape. He knows what happens to slaves who attempt to run away. Besides, Master William has promised to make Jonas his personal manservant, and Jonas thinks fine suits and special privileges sound like a dream. But this dream is put on hold when, in 1859, Master William’s good-for-nothing son, Percy, decides to seek his fortune in the Kansas Territory gold fields, taking Jonas along as his cook and caretaker. Although Percy is a brutal master, Jonas is surprised to find that the other members of the wagon train don’t hold his views about slavery. Jonas even befriends a doctor’s daughter, who teaches him how to read. And with each word Jonas learns, he discovers that there are much bigger dreams a boy can have than being another man’s servant.
In this unforgettable novel, Maurine F. Dahlberg tells the story of a slave coming to understand his own worth. The Story of Jonas is a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.


Read an Excerpt

1JONAS EASED OFF HIS HURTFUL SHOES AND WIGGLED HIS toes up and down. His feet ached from being squeezed so tight, and they had been pricked where the shoe nails stuck through the stiff leather. But Master William and Miz Julia liked for their house servants here at Split Oak Farm to dress fancy, and those were the only shoes Jonas had. One pair of shoes a year, that was what slaves got.“Jonas, time to eat!” called Esther from the kitchen below.“Be there in a minute!” he hollered back down. “Just taking off my good clothes.”Esther was the Hoopers’ cook.


Praise for The Story of Jonas

"The ability to let readers feel the essential cruelty of slavery without scenes of excessive brutality makes this well-crafted, engaging novel appropriate for a middle-grade audience."  --Booklist
"This gripping tale, with its exciting twists and turns, is easily accessible."  --School Library Journal
"A lively story with a light touch and many a folksy turn of phrase." --Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Maurine F. Dahlberg

  • MAURINE F. DAHLBERG is the author of Escape to West Berlin, an NCSS-CBC Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, and two other novels for young readers. She lives in Springfield, Virginia.
  • Maurine F. Dahlberg Copyright Leesa Woodard


Available Formats and Book Details

The Story of Jonas

Maurine F. Dahlberg

Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award Maser List, GA Picture Storybook Award ML, Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, Missouri Mark Twain Award Master List
  • e-Book