cover image Freedom's Fruit

Freedom's Fruit

William H. Hooks. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-82438-1

In an author's note, Hooks explains that this dramatic story, like his The Battle of Belle Dorcas (see p. 63), is based on a ""conjure tale"" he heard as a child in the Low Country of North Carolina. Expertly entwining rich descriptive passages and flowing dialogue, the author tells of Mama Marina, a slave who is a ""conjure woman,"" capable of casting-and removing-powerful spells. Irritated by his slaves' habit of eating his wine grapes off the vine, her master instructs her to put a curse on the fruit so that no one dares devour it. When her daughter, Sheba, questions why she would deprive the slaves of the pleasure of ""ripe grape time,"" Mama Marina responds, ""I done it for a few more miles on your road to freedom."" Hooks's account of how Mama Marina manipulates her gift to free Sheba and Sheba's true love, Joe Nathan, is as absorbing as Ransome's (Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt) accomplished art. Rendered in broad, textured strokes that nonetheless leave room for detail, his emotion-charged paintings depict sweeping panoramas and close-up portraits with equal success. Ages 4-8. (Dec.)