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A Gift from Childhood: Memories of an African Boyhood Hardcover – February 23, 2010


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 4 and up
  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Groundwood Books; 1 edition (February 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0888999313
  • ISBN-13: 978-0888999313
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,285,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4–8—After spending his first four years in an African city, the author's parents sent him to live with his grandparents in a small Malian village. Grandma Sabou was a respected herbalist and healer with a gift for storytelling. Grandpa Samba owned a mango plantation and was one of the few men in his village who knew how to cook. Together, they schooled Diakité in catching catfish, cultivating crops, and coexisting peacefully with nature, all the while instilling in him their virtues and values. When Grandma Sabou finally decided he was "educated," she acquiesced to his request for more formal schooling where he channeled his childhood experiences into a career as an artist. Diakité's story is poignant and well written, and his reverence for his homeland is apparent. The accompanying colorful illustrations, created on earthenware tiles, are beautifully rendered, and the seamlessly interwoven ancestral fables lend authenticity to his story.—Kelly McGorray, Glenbard South High School, Glen Ellyn, IL
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

In his memoir of growing up in a village in Mali, West Africa, well-known storyteller and artist Diakité weaves in the folklore and lessons he learned as a child with his personal biography. The illustrations, printed from earthenware tiles, capture the blend of myth and tradition as well as personal interactions with people and nature. The messages get heavy at times for a young audience, as when Diakité explains how folktales are “like narrative versions of metaphors or proverbs.” But many people will be held by how, at age four, Diakité's city parents send him to his father's home village to be raised by his wise, loving grandmother, where he listens to her fireside stories (“nighttime was beautiful” with no electricity or light), herds sheep and goats, feels the effects of French colonialism, and learns to blend cultural traditions and his own sense of self. Finally, he marries and moves between the U.S. and Mali. Suggest this to adult storytellers as well as to young people. Grades 6-10. --Hazel Rochman

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book and recommend it for everyone who is interested in African culture, in this case, Mali. This is the autobiographical story of a young boy growing up in a Mali village. At that time they had to deal with very basic issues of getting enough food, as well as how to navigate the dangers and rules of village life. It was a harsh world compared to the middle class life that many Americans enjoy. However it was uncomplicated in certain ways that many of us long for, or perhaps even remember from our own childhood.

Children in Mali were expected to accept what is happening at the moment without much explanation. This boy longed for an education, but since they were poor, that was an unlikely prospect. However, his grandmother was able to make the impossible happen, and to mentor him by providing him with the rich cultural education of the village and his own roots before sending him off to get "educated."

The illustrations alone are worth the price of the book.
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