A totally absorbing poetic celebration of loss and redemption.

NEVER FORGOTTEN

A searing cycle of poems describes a father's grief after his son is taken from their home in Mali and enslaved in America.

McKissack's tale of a father's grief, old ways carried to the new world and a circle broken and reforged to span the ocean itself echoes ancient storytelling traditions. An initial poem, "The Griot's Prelude," describes "men with the blue of the sky in their eyes" coming deep into the forests to take slaves. A Mende blacksmith in 18th-century, Mali raises his child himself when the infant's mother dies in childbirth. Dinga enlists the Mother Elements of Earth, Fire, Water and Wind as the elders who help to raise Musafa. Sounds of drums and song for each element (Fire is "Kiki Karum Kiki Karum Kiki Karum," while Water is "Shum Da Da We Da Shum Da Da We Da," for instance) emphasize the storyteller's voice in the narrative, inviting listeners to participate and engage. Full-page and border paintings in acrylic and watercolor use strong black lines, almost like woodcut engravings, in deep browns, earth colors and subtle jewel tones against creamy backgrounds. The boy learns to make beautiful objects of metal but is taken by slave traders, and it is years before Dinga learns from the Wind that his son, now Moses, has become a gifted apprentice blacksmith in Charleston, S.C., soon to be freed by the smithy owner.

A totally absorbing poetic celebration of loss and redemption. (author's note) (Picture book/poetry. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-375-84384-6

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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A good if limited starting guide.

THE KIDS' FAMILY TREE BOOK

Author Leavitt presents all the components of doing research into family history with easy-to-follow directions for a successful project.

The volume begins with clear definitions about genealogy and why it is important to study. It moves on to give practical tips on getting started and how to map a family tree. It introduces young readers to the important documents that can assist in gathering family facts and describes the information they provide. It gives solid directions for setting up interviews with family members and how to reach out to those who are far away. This is followed up with strategies for using online resources, including warnings on how to stay safe on social media. The work of tracing ancestors from their countries of origin can be daunting, but Leavitt gives some help in this area as well and explores the role geography can play in family stories. There is good advice for collecting oral histories, and the chapter on exploring “The Way They Were” will appeal to many, as will the concluding chapters on family reunions and keeping in touch. All of this is presented in an encouraging, upbeat tone. Sidebars, charts, illustrations, and photographs add to the accessibility. The major drawback is that it assumes a known biological lineage with heterosexual parentage; there is no mention of the unique issues adopted children and nontraditional families might have in trying to put some of the instructions into practice. A short section addresses the challenges that face African-American descendants of enslaved people.

A good if limited starting guide. (resources, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2320-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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A good introduction with unfortunate missed potential.

WHAT IS A REFUGEE?

A straightforward and simple introduction to what being a refugee means, accompanied by glimpses into real refugees’ lives.

Sensibly depicted throughout the book as people of varying skin tones; with black, brown, blond, or red hair; of young or old age; and with or without glasses, headscarves, or facial hair, refugees are portrayed and described as “just like you and me.” They've been forced to flee their homes on account of danger, although many would have preferred to stay with friends and family, and are described as fortunate if they find a new country where they can live unremarkable lives. Gravel describes war, oppression, and discrimination as reasons to flee one’s country, but she misses natural disasters and environmental degradation as other potential reasons, and despite her repeated emphasis that refugees are “just like” readers, she highlights the stereotypical circumstance of refugee camps. The book ends with an engaging collection of portrayals of refugees: children from different countries speaking about their favorite things, followed by famous refugee women and men from around the world. Readers may find the single sentence that some countries “don’t want to welcome more refugees” inadequate. The emphasis on “more refugees” has the potential of shifting the conversation away from justice for refugees to justifying racist exclusionary policies.

A good introduction with unfortunate missed potential. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-12005-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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