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Review: Africa is My Home January 13, 2014

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
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africaOne thing that used to drive me nuts when teaching history to children is that there is just so much to cover. In our era of standardized testing, teachers are often forced to focus on the events and people required by their grade level and have to skip the most interesting parts. So historical fiction and non-fiction are important, as they help to draw students into reading about the past and finding out about what teachers skipped. Narratives that focus on people who have long been ignored by ‘official’ history are even more important. Now Monica Edinger has given us one of these engrossing stories with Africa is my Home, about a child on the slave ship Amistad. 

Margru is only nine when she is sold to slave traders, away from her home in Mendeland on the west coast of Africa. After being taken to Havana, she is sold, along with three other children, to the owners of the ship Amistad. When the slaves, led by a man named Cinque, take over the ship, Margru and the others explore and wonder about mysterious objects like a mirror and books. Eventually though, the Amistad is re-taken by whites off the coast of New England. Over the course of several years, Margru learns to speak and read English, eventually returning to Africa as a teacher and missionary.

Originally conceived as a non-fiction book, Edinger ended up creating a fictional first-person voice for Margru which helps the reader immediately connect with her. Her observations and homesick longings are occasionally poetic but never stint on the challenges and struggles she faces on her journey. The wonderful illustrations by Robert Byrd match the carefully chosen details of the text and follow Margru from her life as a child to her final homecoming as an adult. An all too rare hopeful and triumphant story from the history of slavery and the African diaspora, it is a welcome addition to the canon of historical literature for children.

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