Africa Is My Home : A Child of the Amistad

Africa Is My Home : A Child of the Amistad Book Cover Africa Is My Home : A Child of the Amistad
Monica Edinger and Robert Byrd (illus.)
Historical Fiction, CABA Winner
Candlewick Press,
2013
55 pp.
ISBN 9780763650384

"When a drought hits her homeland in Sierra Leone, nine-year-old Magulu is sold as a pawn by her father in exchange for rice. But before she can work off her debt, an unthinkable chain of events unfolds: a capture by slave traders; weeks in a dark and airless hold; a landing in Cuba, where she and three other children are sold and taken aboard the Amistad; a mutiny aboard ship; a trial in New Haven that eventually goes all the way to the Supreme Court and is argued in the Africans' favor by John Quincy Adams." Publisher (Picture Book)

Author Monica Edinger was intrigued with the story of the Amistad when she visited the museum in Mystic, Connecticut dedicated to it, and because she had lived for two years in the very region of Sierra Leone where the Amistad captives once lived.  But she also had the good fortune of discovering a large number of largely unknown and unused primary sources about Margu, whose remarkable story not only included her captivity, the famous court case and her eventual return to Mendeland in Sierra Lone, but also a later return to the United States, and graduation from Oberlin College.

This body of research might well have ended up as an academic project but Edinger, an educator decided to make it a children’s book.  It was a good decision, for this is a story well told, a story of Africa, of perseverance and ultimately of a human view of the slave trade.  The Amistad captives collectively are better known from original sources than just about any other body of slaves in the Americas, thanks to the interest that they generated during the celebrated trial.  This material, plus Edinger’s feel, from experience, of Sierra Leone, gives this story a fine feel of the emotions of being torn from home and family, and of persevering and overcoming adversity.

The illustrations, by Robert Byrd are simply wonderful.  They are colorful, engaging, and above all well researched.  I believe that the placement of the illustrations and the text works well to make this an excellent book for children. Highly Recommended

Reviewed by John Thornton, Boston University

Published in Africa Access Review (April 7, 2014)

Copyright 2014 Africa Access

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