Groundwood Books, 2018 Hardcover Picture book, 32pp. Ages 4-7
Africville carries with it such a clear resounding voice, the poetry if not formed in your mouth and spoken in sure rhythmic intonations in your ears, it will do so in your mind. The requests to “take me to…” takes us along in a tour that speaks to a life-giving nourishment of community, family that isn’t so sentimental as to be mistrusted as something nostalgic. There is a longing for something you know was from a before.
Myself, completely ignorant of the history let alone existence of Africville was taken by the sheer longing and delight of something that surely was. Which of course, upon further education (notes at the back of the book), deepen every sensation of loss.
Africville has a long history, but the children and even the truck in the illustrations do not speak to some long, long ago bygone era; not even the unpaved roads. That Campbell composes with oil and pastel on canvas does suggest an nod toward preservation; of worth; and how it translates in color and texture a richness, a fineness. I almost had someone read this one to me so I take in the words while I took the vibrant images in.
I would not read Africville apart from its history, the opportunity to share its story; but it does read like the fondest of memories and something still very much present. I would allow the reader to rest in the reading before launching into the lament of its Africville’s violent end.
Grant’s words and Campbell’s paintings are gorgeously suited to one another, and a pleasure to hear and see. It is a must-read.
Recommended for all the libraries; adding a nice variation in style of illustration, in historical narrative, and focus (not one white person present); must read aloud and take your time one of the times through. For readers of Jacqueline Woodson’s This is the Rope and Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange.