From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 1–5—Like Virginia Hamilton's The People Could Fly
(Knopf, 2004), this folktale tells the story of slaves who magically slip off the bonds of oppression by simply soaring "way up and over everything." As related by a slave named Jane's great-great granddaughter, it is the tale of five dignified and taciturn new slaves who are taken to a Georgia cotton plantation in 1842. The Africans are given "American" names, but one young man whispers to Jane, "Edet, Edet" as though introducing himself. After a day's brutal work, the newcomers disappear from the eating-time crowd. Dogs are brought out to trail them, and Jane creeps along behind. At the top of a hill, she sees the Africans holding hands, chanting, and whirling in a circle, then stepping into the air, while master and overseer try in vain to stop them. In a dramatic final scene, Edet turns and proudly shouts his African name before flying off "beyond the clouds." Though warned by her master never to share what she has witnessed, Jane, of course, does share. As explained in an afterword, this is a retelling of a "flying story" that has been passed down in the author's family for generations. Written in colloquial language, the tale is enhanced by a spare yet elegant design and delicate folk-art-like watercolor illustrations. Inspiring and informative.—Amy Rowland, Guggenheim Elementary School, Port Washington, NY
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This African American “flying” tale details the miraculous escape of five African slaves from Ol’ Man Deboreaux’s plantation. After a day of toil in the cotton fields, Jane, a 16-year-old slave, notices that the newly arrived Africans are nowhere to be found. When the vicious overseer and the plantation owner set out to find the fugitives, Jane bravely follows and witnesses the Africans taking to the air and soaring over the rolling countryside toward their home across the sea. Jane is warned not to repeat what she has seen, but repeat it she does, as this tale of transcendence and freedom is handed down from generation to generation, until it is finally related to readers by the story’s narrator, Jane’s great-great-granddaughter. Daly’s delicate and elongated figures, small in scale against the vast watercolor landscapes of the Georgia countryside, present a bird’s-eye view of the story and suggest the enormity of such an escape. McGill finishes with a note about the origins and variations of African American flying stories. Grades 2-5. --Kristen McKulski