A totally absorbing poetic celebration of loss and redemption.


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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Meditative, devotional, and vital.



Relationships between people and land, grandfather and granddaughter, frame a story on the significance of treaties.

Whether spending time “on and with the river” researching and restocking sturgeon, leading mapping projects dedicated to highlighting original place names in Anishinaabemowin, or heading “into the bush” alone every spring, Mishomis has lived a full life “out on the land.” In order to impart lessons from his life and teach his granddaughter about the importance of maintaining a connection to place, he sits with her along a river bank. There, they “let the silence speak” until the sounds of nature provide an opportunity for him to remind her of her “responsibilities to this land and water, and to their stories.” But perhaps the most important teaching he hopes she carries forward—one rooted in the first treaty made “between the earth and the sky”—is the power of working together and acting with “respect, reciprocity and renewal.” Appropriately, this unique story’s plot doesn’t follow the typical narrative structure that revolves around conflict. Attorney Craft’s (Anishinaabe Métis) lyrical prose, richly layered with Anishinaabe language, culture, and philosophy, centers the story on an Indigenous understanding of treaties in their truest sense, as “agreements to make relationships.” Swinson’s (Anishinaabe) beautifully colored illustrations rendered in an arresting graphic style give a decidedly modern feel to a story that links generations. Its unusually small trim (4.5-by-6.5 inches) means it can travel in pockets as readers themselves engage with the land.

Meditative, devotional, and vital. (author’s note) (Picture book. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77321-496-2

Page Count: 60

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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For a preteen who enjoys writing her thoughts and a mom whose relationship with her daughter is already good, this...



A “How-to-Say-It” package about preteen physical, emotional, and social concerns for mothers and their daughters.

The period between childhood and adulthood can be challenging to navigate. This boxed set includes two 48-page paperbacks, one for mom and one for her daughter, and a much longer blank journal with writing prompts for the two to share. They follow the pediatrician/author’s highly successful titles about girls’ changing bodies and feelings and a similar but preteen-directed journal some users have chosen to share with parents. Topics covered include personal concerns (hygiene, nutrition, exercise, sleep, safety, body changes, periods, beauty, clothing, eating disorders) and relations with the outside world of family, friends, the Internet, romance, and time management. Each double-page spread addresses a separate topic and includes “how to say it” prompts. There are conversation starters, talking tips, and sensible suggestions about negotiating the social-media world, including a sample family contract. Appealing cartoon illustrations show a range of girls and mother-daughter pairs who are clearly communicating. The “completely private” journal has color-coded pages to indicate mother, daughter, and joint entries, as well as similarly coded ribbons to mark pages. The pages labeled “TOP SECRET” seem to contradict the open approach.

For a preteen who enjoys writing her thoughts and a mom whose relationship with her daughter is already good, this well-meant offering might help ease the pair through a difficult time. (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60958-978-3

Page Count: 92

Publisher: American Girl

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2015

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