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AFRICAN TOWN

Enhanced by rich backmatter, this is a strong addition to literature about slavery.

A fictionalized account of the last slave ship to bring captives from Africa to the United States.

Despite the U.S. ban on the importation of enslaved labor, plantation owner Timothy Meaher bet that he could bring in a shipload of Africans. In 1860, a ship called the Clotilda, under the leadership of Capt. William Foster, sailed from Mobile, Alabama, to the kingdom of Dahomey. There, Foster purchased 110 people—including a 2-year-old girl—who had been captured by the king’s soldiers. Fourteen voices, including that of the ship, tell the tale of that journey across the Middle Passage and the years following their enslavement, first in the Alabama swamps, then on plantations, and finally in the free settlement of African Town (later renamed Africatown). The highly personal stories in verse reveal the different aspects of this illegal trade and the impact on both the Black enslaved people and the White crew members. Most well known is Kossola, who was long thought to be the last known survivor of the Atlantic slave trade. Latham and Waters use a different poetic form for each narrator, giving each a distinct personality. The Africans’ attempts to hold true to their home cultures and traditions—most were Yoruba—as they try to adapt to their new reality come across most powerfully.

Enhanced by rich backmatter, this is a strong addition to literature about slavery. (map, authors’ note, characters, Africatown today, timeline, glossary, poetry forms/styles, resources) (Verse novel. 12-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32288-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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CLAP WHEN YOU LAND

A standing ovation.

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller

Tackles family secrets, toxic masculinity, and socio-economic differences with incisive clarity and candor.

Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic and yearns to go to Columbia University in New York City, where her father works most of the year. Yahaira Rios, who lives in Morningside Heights, hasn’t spoken to her dad since the previous summer, when she found out he has another wife in the Dominican Republic. Their lives collide when this man, their dad, dies in an airplane crash with hundreds of other passengers heading to the island. Each protagonist grieves the tragic death of their larger-than-life father and tries to unravel the tangled web of lies he kept secret for almost 20 years. The author pays reverent tribute to the lives lost in a similar crash in 2001. The half sisters are vastly different—Yahaira is dark skinned, a chess champion who has a girlfriend; Camino is lighter skinned, a talented swimmer who helps her curandera aunt deliver neighborhood babies. Despite their differences, they slowly forge a tenuous bond. The book is told in alternating chapters with headings counting how many days have passed since the fateful event. Acevedo balances the two perspectives with ease, contrasting the girls’ environments and upbringings. Camino’s verses read like poetic prose, flowing and straightforward. Yahaira’s sections have more breaks and urgent, staccato beats. Every line is laced with betrayal and longing as the teens struggle with loving someone despite his imperfections.

A standing ovation. (Verse novel. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288276-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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NEVER FALL DOWN

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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