- Age Range: 10 and up
- Grade Level: 5 and up
- Series: Jane Addams Honor Book (Awards)
- Hardcover: 40 pages
- Publisher: Dial; Complete Numbers Starting with 1, 1st Ed edition (September 30, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0803726236
- ISBN-13: 978-0803726239
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 0.5 x 11.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,154,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Village That Vanished (Jane Addams Honor Book (Awards)) Hardcover – September 30, 2002
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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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The Village that Vanished shows the link between grandmother, mother and granddaughter. The artwork is so alive that it brings the village and villagers moods and actions out into the open for easy viewing in relation to the story. The slavers appear to be east african moslems based on their dress. I thought it interesting yet accurate to depict them this way, arming them with european rifles.
Being shown the way through prayer. And a child shall lead them. Amen.
Though I understand that the villagers must vanish in the book, I would've liked to have seen their return or Chimwala being reunited with 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?'"
When the villagers' escape route leads them to a wide, impassable river, the swift Abikanile runs to find a shallow crossing. She finds nothing. Then, this listener, remembering her mother's prayer, appeals to the ancestors, who reveal walking stones for those who have the faith to see them. Back in the deserted village, Chimwala uses her "stony face," and unwavering calm to deceive the gun-toting slavers atop their powerful horses.
Ann Grifalconi writes beautifully ("Young Abikanile waited, still as a bird, in the tall reeds that grew near the water's edge") and believably, although it is not stated whether this is indeed an authentic African tale. Many of Kadir Nelson's oil paint-on-photocopy pictures have a luminous, dramatic look, particularly his cover drawing of the slavers imagined in the clouds. The heavily crosshatched individual portraits add character, and Nelson's portrayal of the life-giving river, usually set against a beautifully luminescent sky, is spectacular (although several scenes take place at twilight or night). I missed some sense of the jungle, more over-head or long shots showing the jungle against the sky, and perhaps a small animal here and there would have conveyed more sense of setting. However, these are small objections in a highly accessible story about faith, the necessity for teamwork, and the power of the individual.