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.)
Reviewed on: 08/08/2011 Release date: 10/01/2011 Genre: Children's
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