From School Library Journal
Grade 6-10?Portraits of three West African kingdoms are created through the use of legends and history. Mann looks first to Ife, which is understood to be the founding kingdom of the Yoruba and predated the rise of Oyo, the subject of the second chapter. Next come thematic chapters on the environment, kingdom building (including the origin of states in the Sudan prior to the development of Ife), and the slave trade; then the chapters on Benin and Ashanti. An epilogue takes the story through colonial rule to the present. Each chapter about a kingdom opens with an appealing oral tradition central to the kingdom's identity, followed by information about its history and culture. However, this material is not always well organized, and the line between story and history becomes blurred, allowing readers to conclude that African history is mostly legend. Overall, the book seems somewhat fragmented and confusing. The attractive layout includes excellent-quality full-color photographs and lively border designs. A map locates the featured kingdoms projected onto a map of current West African nations. A clearer, more knowledgeable history of these kingdoms is included in Philip Koslow's Centuries of Greatness, 750-1900 (1994) and his books in the "Kingdoms of Africa" series (all Chelsea) provide excellent detail. Yet some young people will appreciate Mann's adding brief versions of the griots' stories to the history.?Loretta Kreider Andrews, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.