cover image My Name Is Not Angelica

My Name Is Not Angelica

Scott O'Dell. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $18 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-395-51061-2

O'Dell, like a conjurer, weaves worlds out of words, over the years dazzling readers with a string of remarkable novels richly steeped in a sense of time and place--and, most of all, character. His latest story is set in 1733, and centers on a slave revolt in the West Indies. As in so many of his books, O'Dell unfolds the tale through the eyes of a strong central heroine, in this case, Raisha, daughter of a Senegalese sub-chief, who is captured and sold to Danish slavers. O'Dell doesn't spare readers any of the grim realities of slavery; the details of Raisha's harrowing six-month crossing on the slave ship God's Adventure (which may bring to mind Paula Fox's The Slave Dancer ), and subsequent life as a house servant on the island of St. John, are at times almost unbearably painful. But, as always, O'Dell's story is ultimately life-affirming, a moving tribute to the dignity of the human spirit. Raisha's betrothed, the Barato chief Konje, whom she eventually weds, escapes and joins a band of runaway slaves, quickly becoming their leader. Soon, ``drums are talking,'' and the night wind carries their messages of hope from the rebel camp across the island. The voice of the drums underscores Raisha's own miseries at the Van Prok plantation (where she's given the name Angelica), and urges the story to its dramatic climax. The ending, in which all of the rebel slaves except Raisha, who is carrying Konje's child, leap to their deaths from a cliff rather than return to slavery, is so powerful, so searing, it will leave readers stunned. My Name Is Not Angelica is a magnificent tale, superbly told by a grand master of historical fiction. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)