Thursday, March 22, 2007

Africa Dream

by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Carole Byard. John Day Company, 1977.
1978 Coretta Scott King Award

Eloise Greenfield is one of my favorite poets and writers of children's books. This one, Africa Dream, was a library discard that I snapped up. It's been around a long time but it is just as beautiful and well-loved as ever. Here is link to a review written by a nine year old girl from the Bronx, posted on the Spaghetti book club site in 2001. I can't add much to that.

The illustrations are black and white pencil drawings, which isn't common in 21st century books, so perhaps the shelf glamor has faded a bit and kids might need to be enticed into exploring it. Once they hear it read aloud I am sure it will be a favorite re-read. Greenfield's voice sings as a child dreaming of crossing the ocean in "a slow, smooth jump" to land in "long ago Africa." She reads old books with "magic eyes" and explore cities and donkey caravans. She stands "lonesome still" in a village...
"Till my long-ago granddaddy
with my daddy's face
stretched out his arms
and welcomed me home.

"He knelt on one knee
And planted one seed
That grew into ten tall trees
With mangoes for me..."

She dances with uncles and travels with cousins, exploring the full breadth and depth of the continent. Then at last...
"When I got tired
I turned into a baby
And my long-ago grandma
With Mama's face
Held me in her arms
And rocked me
Rocked me
To sleep."
The figures swirl in a fluid dream scape that rocks readers in the rhythm of Greenfield's song. Here is a story that gives depth to the blessing given in the dedication page: "To all children of African descent; May they find in their past the strength to shape their future." I am so glad to be able to bring this book to my sons!

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