In this text-heavy picture book, Edinger fictionalizes the story of Margru, a child whom slave traders transported in 1839 from Mendeland, West Africa, to Cuba and then to the United States on the Spanish slave ship the Amistad.
Margru’s father pawns his daughter at 9 in exchange for rice. When he is unable to redeem her, she is sold off to traders and forced to endure the Middle Passage. The child narrator effectively conveys her confusion at being treated savagely by people whose language and intentions she does not understand, as well as the meager comfort she finds in her two friends, Kagne and Teme, who are purchased along with her in Cuba. Throughout the story, Margru’s dreams of home appear within round frames, thick with the flora and fauna of Africa. Edinger and Byrd punctuate the story with reproductions and snippets from archives, newspaper clippings, maps, letters and engravings—all of which reinforce its authenticity. While this book makes an important part of history accessible to child readers, it is not without flaws. Its illustrations are frequently cramped and offer minimal variety in the characters’ skin tones and facial features. The narrative occasionally skips weeks or months without alerting readers, making parts of the story befuddling.
Nevertheless, this book gives middle-grade readers a starting point for understanding this landmark episode in American history, in which slaves fought through the court system and won. (author’s note, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-14)