Lester’s prose is powerful and poetic, and Pinkney outdoes himself in hauntingly expressive, often wordless double-page...

THE OLD AFRICAN

Whips sink into bare flesh and red blood glistens in Lester’s painfully vivid, four-part story of the horrors of slavery that evolves into a fantastical escape myth.

When a runaway boy named Paul is brutally beaten by Master Riley, his anguish triggers a flashback of the magical, shape-shifting Old African to the terror and stench of the slave ships he experienced ten years previous. Paul’s vision-inspired cry “Water! Water!” stirs the Old African to lead the slaves off the plantation to the ocean, the Water-That-Stretched-Forever. Fully clothed, the slaves walk into the waves to their freedom, down onto the ocean floor, over the bones of fellow captured slaves, all the way back to Africa where their homecoming is joyful and triumphant. Both author and artist draw on a story originating with the Ybo slaves of coastal Georgia for this moving collaboration.

Lester’s prose is powerful and poetic, and Pinkney outdoes himself in hauntingly expressive, often wordless double-page paintings that masterfully capture the strength and suffering of the African people. (Illustrated fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8037-2564-7

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2005

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A bone-chilling tale not to be ignored by the universe.

PRISONER B-3087

If Anne Frank had been a boy, this is the story her male counterpart might have told. At least, the very beginning of this historical novel reads as such.

It is 1939, and Yanek Gruener is a 10-year old Jew in Kraków when the Nazis invade Poland. His family is forced to live with multiple other families in a tiny apartment as his beloved neighborhood of Podgórze changes from haven to ghetto in a matter of weeks. Readers will be quickly drawn into this first-person account of dwindling freedoms, daily humiliations and heart-wrenching separations from loved ones. Yet as the story darkens, it begs the age-old question of when and how to introduce children to the extremes of human brutality. Based on the true story of the life of Jack Gruener, who remarkably survived not just one, but 10 different concentration camps, this is an extraordinary, memorable and hopeful saga told in unflinching prose. While Gratz’s words and early images are geared for young people, and are less gory than some accounts, Yanek’s later experiences bear a closer resemblance to Elie Wiesel’s Night than more middle-grade offerings, such as Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars. It may well support classroom work with adult review first.

A bone-chilling tale not to be ignored by the universe. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-45901-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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  • Coretta Scott King Book Award Winner

DAY OF TEARS

A NOVEL IN DIALOGUE

On a day when rain came down “hard as sorrow,” George Weems sets out to sell more slaves at one time than anyone ever had. Pierce Butler must sell off hundreds of slaves to cover gambling debts and 12-year-old Emma is one of his victims. Named after Lester’s grandmother, whose mother was a slave, Emma is part of a large cast of characters—slaves, owners, businessmen and abolitionists—who tell their own stories, in their own voices. Interludes occasionally have characters return in old age to reflect on their lives since the auction, a brilliant technique that demonstrates, in some characters, the persistence of racist belief. Other, good-hearted, characters, white and black, act towards each other with respect and dignity and affirm the possibilities of conscience and common humanity even in the worst of times. This important novel, based on an actual slave auction in 1859, begs to be performed, though teachers and performers may be hesitant to utter the racist language of the day. Powerful theater and one of Lester’s finest works. (cast of characters, author’s note) (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7868-0490-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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