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AFRICAN by Peter Tosh


From the LyricPop series

by Peter Tosh ; illustrated by Rachel Moss

Pub Date: June 2nd, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-61775-799-0
Publisher: Akashic

Jamaican artist Moss illustrates the lyrics of Tosh’s 1977 reggae hit “African.”

Tosh’s lyrics open the door to black people everywhere, regardless of nationality or geography, to consider themselves African. The first spread shows a world map with Africa at its center and arrows from the continent throughout the world, a vague representation of the diaspora. The refrain, “Don’t care where you come from, / as long as you’re a black man, / you’re an African,” is interspersed with verses that list cities and countries of residence as far flung as Russia and Taiwan, naming different complexions and denominations as inconsequential as well. The joyful illustrations depict young and older black people of various colors, with many different hairstyles and wearing an array of clothing styles, playing, riding, dancing, and walking. The settings faithfully convey the scenery of the locales named. However, the depiction of African wildlife instead of people on several spreads of the refrain, juxtaposed with the people and buildings in other illustrations, risks obscuring the realities of modern, urban Africa. And although modern readers may balk at the gendered chorus, the dynamic art and text work together to form a loving ode to belonging for black people of the diaspora. This is one of four in the new LyricPop series. It and Christine McVie’s Don’t Stop, illustrated by Nusha Ashjaee, which depicts a pink bunny playing with woodland friends as winter melts into spring, are two that work in this series of lyrics-turned–picture book. Skip Paul Hoppe’s interpretation of Mike Love and Brian Wilson’s “Good Vibrations,” in which a kid and a dog surf in unlikely circumstances, and Margaret McCartney’s version of Dee Snider’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” depicting three toddlers resisting naptime. A QR code on the back opens up a Spotify playlist with all the series songs.

A serviceable volume in a hit-or-miss series.

(Picture book. 4-8)