Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad
by Monica Edinger; illus. by Robert Byrd
Intermediate Candlewick 4 pp.
10/13 78-0-7636-5038-4 17.99
Edinger creates a fictional first-person voice, undergirded by extensive research, for Margru, one of four Mende children aboard the Amistad, and through her eyes relates her enslavement in Africa, the revolt aboard ship during which Cinque and the other Mende took control of the Amistad, and the captives’ two-year stay in Connecticut while their case for mutiny was being tried. Edinger avoids sensationalism without underselling the more disturbing parts of the story (the horrors of the Middle Passage, for instance, are evoked in six stark sentences on a black double-page spread). The uncertainty of Margru’s situation and the peril faced by Cinque and the other mutineers keep tension high. Byrd’s pen-and-watercolor illustrations use detailed but informal lines to both embellish and extend the story, and they share space in the open and varied book design with archival images and boxes containing excerpts from newspapers and other contemporary sources; periodic full-page vignettes show Margru dreaming of home and foreshadow her eventual return to Africa. An author’s note describes Edinger’s motivation in seeking out Margru’s story and traces some of her research methods, but it is her skill in imagining Margru’s life from those original sources that opens up this episode in history to young readers. anita l. burkam