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The Village That Vanished (Jane Addams Honor Book (Awards)) Hardcover – September 30, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The creator of The Village of Round and Square Houses sets another moving tale on African soil, this time recounting how a small village escapes a band of slave traders. Young Abikanile and her mother, Njemile, guide their fellow villagers in an ingenious escape, but it requires both courage and faith. In the style of an African storyteller, Grifalconi uses expressive prose to eloquently recount the anxious and poignant atmosphere as villagers prepare to flee deep into the forest to wait out the slavers. First, they must wipe out all traces of the village of Yao (except for the elder, Chimwala, who elects to stay and pose as a soothsayer): "The people stood back, then, leaning on their hoes, their tears wetting the soil where their homes had rested, as the smell of freshly turned earth rose about them." Nelson's (Just the Two of Us) oils, heavy on dusky tones, fill in finely detailed pencil drawings to convey the dense flora of the African jungle as well as the gait, poise and feelings of the villagers. Crosshatched shadings add subtle texture to their dark skin, while a small white flower or brightly colored batik provides sophisticated contrast. In an especially effective scene, Njemile tells her daughter of the slavers who "come riding in swiftly on horseback, shooting their long guns, capturing unarmed farmers" while shadowy images of them, guns raised at the ready, eerily appear as dark clouds against an orange sky. An uplifting tale of inner strength and courage. Ages 5-up.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 2-6-In a folkloric style, Grifalconi tells of an African village whose inhabitants use their wits and their faith in the spirits of their ancestors to hide from the slavers who are approaching. Abikanile's mother devises the plan whereby the Yao dismantle their huts and till the ground where they stood to make it seem as if only one old woman, pretending to be a witch, lives in the vicinity. But it is Abikanile herself who, by calling on ancestral spirits, is shown the stepping stones hidden beneath the surface of the river that allow the villagers to escape. This story celebrating resourcefulness, quick thinking, and community solidarity may inspire and empower readers. Nelson's pencil drawings enhanced with oil paints are wonderfully evocative of place, mood, posture, and expression.
Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Series: Jane Addams Honor Book (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Dial (September 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803726236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803726239
  • Product Dimensions: 11.9 x 9.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,601,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Allen Greenbaum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I got this book solely because of Kadir Nelson's magnificent illustrations in "Ellington Was Not a Street." Nelson again shows why he's one of the top kids' books illustrators. Moreover, the story skillfully weaves fact, spirituality, and suspense in an exciting, identifiable story of escape from danger--in this case slavers who will capture or kill them.

The narrative focuses on three members of a peaceful agricultural community in Africa, part of the Yao tribe: Abikanile (whose name means "listen") a pre-adolescent girl who embodies fear and courage, her mother, Njemile ("upstanding") the moral leader and embodiment of practical and sacred wisdom, and her grandmother, Chimwala ("stone"), brave and unyielding as a rock.

There's a pervasive theme of spirituality: The book opens with Njembile praying to her ancestors to keep the family safe, and her prayer foreshadows some of the ensuing events:

Do not deny me now!

Lend me and my children

The secrecy of the crocodile

Below your waters!

Oh, my ancestor spirits

We need your magic now!

Protect our village,

Keep us free!

Realizing that they can't successfully battle the slavers, and that hiding would be futile, Njembile convinces the small community that they must fool the slavers by destroying or hiding every trace of the village. They quickly take apart their reed huts, and carry as many items as they can. Chimwala is too frail to make the journey, but she stays behind as decoy, planning to tell the powerful traders that she is a witch, living alone in small jungle clearing. "The slavers will not take me! Am I not old and mean? Is it not said `The Crocodile will not eat old wrinkled adder snake?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mami_Wanga on January 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I came across this book in the library. I read it to my 7 year old daughter and she and I both were delighted with this tale. As a fictional tale for children it embodies the spirit of community and culture the magic of nature and the ancestral-spiritual realm. The illustrations are beautiful which greatly embellishes the storytelling of the author. Well-written, beautifully illustrated and wonderful content. I highly recommend it.
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By Rozie on May 21, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Strong themes of courage and perseverance, spirituality and community. Perhaps best of all, Grifalconi shows the innocence and resilience that only children possess in times of uncertainty
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