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 isÂ "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)Â (Picture book/poetry. 7-12)
ÂCopyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
McKissack's (The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll) story about a Malian boy abducted and sold into slavery has frightening moments, but carries dignity and even triumph away from them. Forceful and iconic, the Dillons' (The Secret River) woodcut-style paintings use gentle colors and strong lines to telegraph scary sequences, but do not dwell on them. McKissack's free verse incorporates a Greek chorus of the elements Earth, Fire, Water, and Wind, who watch over the infant Musafa and assist his father, Dinga, in his blacksmith's work, but cannot save Musafa after he is brought to the New World. He surfaces in South Carolina, a gifted blacksmith like his father, and Wind, which has made itself into a hurricane to cross the ocean, is at last able to bring word to Dinga of his beloved son: "Though a slave, he lives!" Readers learn Musafa's owner may free him, but "In my mind," Wind hears Musafa say, "I have always been free,/ As free as Wind." The willingness to turn the dark history of the past into literature takes not just talent but courage. McKissack has both. All ages. (Oct.)[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC
Gr 4-7--This story-in-verse begins centuries ago, when an African blacksmith named Dinga loses his wife in childbirth. Against the advice of others in his village, he decides to raise the baby himself. When his son, Musafa, grows up, he becomes an apprentice blacksmith, but before long, the slave ships come: "Beware/Of pale men riding in large seabirds/With great white wings." What happens after that makes for a moving story of loss and transcendence, and a loving tribute to the power of memory. McKissack's writing is as rhythmic and sure as the sound of the drumbeats she describes in the narrative. The Dillons' acrylic/watercolor paintings feature beautifully soft colors and heavy yet fluid lines. The pictures demonstrate the miracle of superb book illustration: how something that lies flat on the page can convey such depth, texture, and feeling. This sad but powerful tale will not be easily accessible to many kids, but here's hoping that there are a lot of patient and appreciative adults (teachers, parents, librarians) to introduce them to it.--Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL[Page 162]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gr 4-7--In a tribute to those who were stolen from homes in Africa to become slaves in the New World, McKissack weaves a tale (Schwartz & Wade, 2011) about a loving father and the young son who is taken from him. Dinga, a seventh-generation Mende blacksmith, is a talented and respected man. After his wife dies in childbirth, Dinga defies tradition, raising his son Musafa with the help of the Mother Elements--Earth, Fire, Water, and Wind. Musafa grows strong and wise. He becomes Dinga's apprentice, creating pretty, but useless objects. One day, while gathering wood, Musafa is captured. Dinga searches in vain for his son, then appeals to the Elements for help. They take turns following Musafa, reporting to Dinga of his son's passage, his courage, and finally, of his new life as a blacksmith in South Carolina. Dinga rejoices that Musafa is alive and that his talent for creating lovely objects could earn his freedom. Lizan Mitchell performs the passages of McKissack's 2012 Coretta Scott King Honor book melodiously and with fervor. The author's note was not recorded. Leo and Diane Dillon's acrylic and watercolor illustrations resemble woodcuts, superimposing bold figures on fainter ones, creating impressions of lingering spirits, evil, and sadness. Combining history, folk tales, and legend into a moving remembrance of families torn apart, this haunting story with its rich illustrations is strengthened by this wonderful audio interpretation.--MaryAnn Karre, West Middle School, Binghamton, New York[Page 59]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.