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THE OLD AFRICAN by Julius Lester Kirkus Star

THE OLD AFRICAN

By Julius Lester (Author) , Jerry Pinkney (Illustrator)

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-8037-2564-7
Publisher: Dial

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+)