cover image Ain't Nobody a Stranger to Me

Ain't Nobody a Stranger to Me

Ann Grifalconi, , illus. by Jerry Pinkney. . Hyperion/Jump at the Sun, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-1857-0

This resonant, moving story spotlights both the loving rapport between a girl and her grandfather, and the story of his family's escape to freedom. Grifalconi's (The Village of Round and Square Houses ) narrator recalls accompanying her grandfather on a visit to his apple orchard. As the fellow waves hello to every passerby, the youngster asks how he knows so many people. He replies, "Don't know 'em by name—just by heart, Honey.... Ain't nobody a stranger to me! " And to her question, "Why's that, Gran'pa?" he responds, " 'Cause both me and my heart is free." The tale then travels back to a darker time, and Pinkney's bright palette similarly dims to sepia tones. The grandfather explains that, as a slave, he had carried apple seeds in his pockets that he planned to save for the day he could plant them in his own soil. But one day he realized that that wouldn't happen " 'til we struck out for freedom ourselves!" He and his wife ran away with their baby—the narrator's mother—and escaped across the Ohio River with the help of a member of the Underground Railroad. Pinkney's (The Old African ) shadow-filled paintings depict their harrowing journey, and give way to glorious color as the man and his granddaughter reach his apple orchard in full bloom. The trees' luminous pink hues offer a stunning testimony to the power of those prophetic seeds. In a poignant finale, the girl then plants seeds of her own—a "seed of memory." An inspired collaboration. Ages 5-9. (Apr.)