When a stranger in a sky blue robe appears in the 14th century Malian village of Kaba Kangaba, young Kankan Musa is spellbound. He joins the other villagers in an evening of stories and celebration... only to have the spell broken by the arrival of slave raiders who seize Kankan and carry him off to the desert. Here begins our hero's story: is he destined to be a slave for life? Or will this be the launch of a journey to self-discovery and maturity?
Khephra Burns's exquisitely told account of one of the greatest kings of Mali is based solidly in fact, although the details of his boyhood are imagined. Partnered with the rich, breathtaking illustrations by two-time Caldecott Medalists, Leo and Diane Dillon (Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears and Ashanti to Zulu), this beautifully formatted picture book will capture the imagination and fascination of children everywhere. (Ages 8 and older) --Emilie Coulter
From Publishers Weekly
Evocative, finely wrought gouache paintings by the Dillons (Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears) provide excellent accompaniment to this colorful introduction to the history of Mali. Burns (Black Stars in Orbit: NASA's African American Astronauts) embarks in 14th-century West Africa, creating a slightly embellished (as per an author's note) account of the mystery and greatness of the Mali kingdom. Employing a combination of mythical elements and historical fact, the author sets in motion a chain of events during which 14-year-old Kankan is kidnapped by slave traders, wanders the desert for six years with a captor/mentor and, after an important revelation, eventually returns to his Mali homeland. Kankan has discovered that he is a descendent of the legendary king Sundiata and is destined to rule his people as Mansa Musa. Though it contains several fascinating episodes, the very lengthy, highly detailed text may be off-putting for the usual picture book audience. In addition, the plot slows and drifts off course as Kankan wanders the desert, and younger readers may have difficulty keeping the names of people and places straight. As a highlight, the illustrations bring alive historic Africa and its people, dressed in elegant, flowing garments, bright gold jewelry and carefully draped turbans. Flashes of purple, yellow, white and turquoise sparkle against a desert background. The book may also be useful as a first introduction to the Muslim faith. All ages.
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