From School Library Journal
Grade 1-4-This ambitious picture book tells the life of a woman who was captured as a child in Africa and became a slave on an American plantation. As an adult, Minna relates the grim threads that have woven the story of her life. Sickness, hunger, and backbreaking labor are ameliorated only by the love and support of a fellow slave who becomes her husband, and by her four children. Her happiness is short-lived, however, for first her husband and then her eldest son are sold to other plantations. Minna's second child, after being whipped for teaching herself to read, escapes to freedom. The third child attempts to go north to join his sister; he does not make it that far, but is taken in by a Seminole Indian family. Finally, Minna is left with only her youngest child, who remains working in the Big House. Johnson's personalization of the facts is an effective device for conveying an overview of the tragedy of human slavery, but by condensing so much into one family's life, the author is unable to maintain her characters' individuality, and they become icons instead. The handsome illustrations are formally posed and somewhat blurred, adding to the sensation that this one family stands for all slaves. Still, this book is a beginning for teaching a painful part of America's history.Anna DeWind, Milwaukee Public Library
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Minna narrates her kidnapping by slave traders as a child in Africa and the rough passage to America. Under the cruel conditions on board ship, she meets Amadi, with whom she is sold to a plantation owner. They marry and have four children before Amadi is sold; two ``steal away'' to freedom in the years before ratification of the 13th Amendment. Johnson neither spares grim details nor harps on them, achieving subtlety through careful phrasing (a reference to those who ``survived'' the ship's passage is a quiet reminder of those who did not). Her vivid paintings blend generalized impressionistic backgrounds with realistic foregrounds; faces seem to flicker with an array of universal emotions. Some facts are filtered through a modern sensibility (e.g., Minna says she was sold for ``less than one hundred dollars,'' implying that was a small amount), but nonetheless, a compelling, elegantly composed narrative. Excellent author's note. (Picture book. 5-9) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.