The story of Minna, snatched as a child from her African village, sold to a plantation owner in America, and stripped of her name and family, offers a personal glimpse of the terrors of slavery.
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In an author's note, Johnson ( Your Dad Was Just Like You ) writes that this "is not a pleasant story, nor does it have a happy ending. Yet it is a story that must be told." On all points, she is absolutely correct. Her fictionalized account of an all-too-real situation opens in 1815, when an African girl, Minna, is kidnapped and taken aboard a foul-smelling ship bound for North America. During the arduous three-month trip, she makes friends with a boy named Amadi. Sold to "a tall white man with the cold eyes of a snake," the two are put to work in the cotton fields, and eventually marry and have four children. In her powerful, heartbreaking first-person narrative, Minna tells how Amadi is suddenly sold to another master (". . . before I could even say good-bye. I was never to hear another word from him again"). The next year, her oldest son is also sold, after which Minna allows two other children to "steal away" to freedom. As the tale closes, Minna and her youngest daughter still live in "this prison of slavery" on the cotton plantation; an epilogue speculates on the fates of the fictional characters and explains that they, their descendants and the majority of their real-life counterparts continued this "brutal existence" until the Civil War ended 20 years later. Johnson's stately, slightly impressionistic illustrations underscore the anguish and sadness of her story--and of the entire slavery experience. Ages 5-10.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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.
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Book Description Macmillan, 1993. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 27476995
Book Description Macmillan, 1993. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0027476995
Book Description Macmillan, 1993. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110027476995
Book Description Macmillan. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0027476995 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW6.0005880