From Publishers Weekly
Noted sculptor Pace makes a stunning children's book debut. Disarming in its simplicity, his narrative conveys complex themes in a fairy tale structure. "A long time ago in Africa," reads the left-hand page of the first spread, opposite a childlike outline of the continent in orange, clearly labeled, which vibrates against a cherry-red background. The next two spreads continue, "a little boy named Jalani/ loved to play in the forest." Jalani's smiling face dominates his portrait; the forest is a grove of lollipop trees. In these three spreads, Pace introduces the key elements of his story. Like other classic fairy tales, the forest, once a child's magical kingdom, becomes a source of terror; this is the scene where "a strange man came and took him away." Pace marks Jalani's transition into life as a captive in America with a single word, "Locks," paired with the image of a padlock so carefully rendered that it seems to be animated on the page. The compositions depict Jalani's fellow field hands but never his oppressors, and his memories sustain him until he is finally freed. He keeps the lock, however, and hands it down to his eldest son "so they would never forget from where they all came." Based on the biography of Pace's own great-great-grandfather, the volume ends with a photograph of the lock. In his choice to adhere to a child's vocabulary and view of the world, Pace conveys the childlike hope that kept Jalani and his past alive. Ages 8-up.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Ages 3-5. Pace's picture book tells the history of slavery for young children with a few simple words and big, childlike illustrations. It begins almost like a scary fairy tale. A little boy named Jalani loved to play in the forest. One day a strange man comes and takes him away in a boat to a far-off land, locking him in chains and forcing him to work. Jalani never plays again. After many years, freedom comes, but he keeps his lock, which he passes on to his grandchildren to pass on. Background notes on the last page, which will interest a much older audience, explain that the lock is real. It originally shackled Pace's great-great grandfather, and a bronze replica of it is interred in Pace's African Burial Ground Memorial Sculpture in New York City. The details about the memorial and the burial ground will move children and those who read to them as much as the elemental history of the child torn from home. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved