Illustrated by the Dillons (Two Little Trains, p. 561, etc.) at their most magisterial, this original tale of the youth of Kankan Musa, the most renowned royal descendant of the great king of Mali, Sundiata, makes a grand, compelling, sumptuously presented narrative. Captured by slavers and sold to a wandering mystic, Kankan Musa spends seven years learning the ways of the desert, seeing the wonders of Egypt, and facing death in several forms as he grows in wisdom and inner strength. Returning home at last, he is welcomed with jubilance, and later begins a reign so dazzling that his fame spreads even to benighted Europe. Burns (Black Stars in Orbit, not reviewed) relates events in measured, oratorical prose. Matching his formality, the Dillons draw on Renaissance manuscript art for inspiration, placing small, richly clad, precisely detailed figures in front of land- or cityscapes seen in compressed perspective, opposite pages of text featuring illuminated initials and spaces filled out with patterned bars. The author distinguishes fact from fancy in an afterword, and closes with a booklist for readers eager to travel on. As much about Mansa Musa’s inner journey to selfhood as his outer coming of age, this is a feast for the eye and spirit both. (Illustrated fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-15-200375-4

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Gulliver/Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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When Mariano’s mother and friend decide to restore and convert an old plantation house into an inn, the ghostly apparition of Rosario, a slave child from the previous century, brings to light a story of cruel mass murder in 19th-century Brazil. With three friends, Leo, Elisa and Tere, Mariano experiences a series of séance visits during the late night hours as Rosario tells them the history of her family and how the laws overturning slavery caused their cruel master to lock his slaves in a burning barn rather than grant them freedom. Only her little brother Amaro escaped and it turns out he became the only heir to the plantation. Rosario wants the truth recorded and remembered and requests Mariano write it down. Told in the first person from the boy’s point of view, the “visits” slowly piece together the slave child’s mysterious bits of information later verified by Leo’s grandmother. Translated from the Portuguese, this Hans Christian Andersen award winner weaves together a mildly enigmatic yet unexciting plot that purports themes of freedom and justice accompanied by slightly cubist-style charcoal or pastel drawings. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-88899-597-0

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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Hattie’s third outing (Hattie On Her Way, 2005, etc.) begins with a mystery: Does the tiny encoded book left hidden in a coat by her (possibly insane) grandfather contain the key to a hidden treasure? That treasure will be essential if her impoverished elderly grandmother is to pay the delinquent taxes on her elegant mansion. Hattie, in a mildly engaging first-person voice, relates her efforts to solve this mystery, while also struggling to fit in with her new classmates at the common (public) school. Several characters carry over from the two previous tales. The appealing and ever-so-slightly creepy cover art will draw readers in, but those expecting a suspenseful mystery will be disappointed, with the book’s code too easily broken and a lack of intriguing red herrings to advance the plot. With the exception of Hattie herself, characters lack depth, and the late 19th-century urban atmosphere is only superficially depicted. Although able to stand alone, this effort will most likely satisfy only those readers wanting to reconnect with Hattie. (Mystery. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3249-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2009

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