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The Old African

Julius Lester - Author

Jerry Pinkney - Illustrator

Hardcover | $21.99 | add to cart | view cart
ISBN 9780803725645 | 80 pages | 08 Sep 2005 | Dial | 10.00 x 20.00in | 4 - AND UP years
Awards
  • NYPL's 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
Summary of The Old African Summary of The Old African Reviews for The Old African An Excerpt from The Old African

No one on the plantation had ever heard the Old African’s voice, yet he had spoken to all of them in their minds. For the Old African had the power to see the color of a person’s soul and read his thoughts as if they were words on a page. Now it was time to act—time to lead his fellow slaves to the Water-That-Stretched-Forever, and from there back to Africa. Back to their home.

Based on legend and infused with magical realism, this haunting tale is beautiful in both its language and its images. Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney have found a new, extraordinary way to express the horrors of slavery and the hope and strength that managed to overcome its grip.

"Whips sink into bare flesh and red blood glistens in Lester’s painfully vivid, four-part story of the horrors of slavery that evolves into a fantastical escape myth. When a runaway boy named Paul is brutally beaten by Master Riley, his anguish triggers a flashback of the magical, shape-shifting Old African to the terror and stench of the slave ships he experienced ten years previous. Paul’s vision inspired cry “Water! Water!” stirs the Old African to lead the slaves off the plantation to the ocean, the Water-That-Stretched- Forever. Fully clothed, the slaves walk into the waves to their freedom, down onto the ocean floor, over the bones of fellow captured slaves, all the way back to Africa where their homecoming is joyful and triumphant. Both author and artist draw on a story originating with the Ybo slaves of coastal Georgia for this moving collaboration. Lester’s prose is powerful and poetic, and Pinkney outdoes himself in hauntingly expressive, often wordless double-page paintings that masterfully capture the strength and suffering of the African people."
-Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Lester’s story is based on a legend about Ybo Landing, GA, where a group of slaves walked into the water, saying they were walking to Africa. His resulting novella-length allegory about spirit, memory, and freedom shows how hope can live in a people even when the spirit dies... Lester and Pinkney combine their talents here to create an unusual, complex, and thought-provoking offering in which the Old African is the keeper of a power that brings comfort and, ultimately, salvation to his people."
-School Library Journal, starred review


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