Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad (Paperback)
Inspired by a true account, here is the compelling story of a child who arrives in America on the slave ship Amistad —and eventually makes her way home to Africa.
When a drought hits her homeland in Sierra Leone, nine-year-old Magulu is sold as a pawn by her father in exchange for rice. But before she can work off her debt, an unthinkable chain of events unfolds: a capture by slave traders; weeks in a dark and airless hold; a landing in Cuba, where she and three other children are sold and taken aboard the Amistad; a mutiny aboard ship; a trial in New Haven that eventually goes all the way to the Supreme Court and is argued in the Africans’ favor by John Quincy Adams. Narrated in a remarkable first-person voice, this fictionalized book of memories of a real-life figure retells history through the eyes of a child — from seeing mirrors for the first time and struggling with laughably complicated clothing to longing for family and a home she never forgets. Lush, full-color illustrations by Robert Byrd, plus archival photographs and documents, bring an extraordinary journey to life.
About the Author
Monica Edinger is an educator and reviews children’s books for the New York Times, The Horn Book, and other publications. She began her teaching career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone. Monica Edinger lives and works in New York City.
Robert Byrd is the illustrator of the Newbery Medal–winning Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlitz as well as numerous other award-winning books. He lives in Haddonfield, New Jersey.
Edinger tells the story of Margru's long journey home, supporting her fictionalized narrative with primary sources like news clippings and engravings. The best of Byrd's exquisite ink-and-watercolor pictures show Margru sleeping under New England quilts while dream images of Africa wreath her head.
—The New York Times Book Review
[A] remarkable story of resilience, faith, and hope... With more than 40 stunning illustrations, this unique narrative should find an appreciative audience.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
[T]his book makes an important part of history accessible to child readers...
This well-known story is personalized as seen through the eyes of Magulu, and is created by the author using letters, newspaper articles, maps, journals, and engravings. Several of the maps and engravings are used to supplement the beautiful artistry of the award-winning illustrator
—Library Media Connection
Edinger avoids sensationalism without underselling the more disturbing parts of the story... 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.
—The Horn Book
Margru’s descriptions of the strangeness of life in America and her homesickness for Sierra Leona are incisive and heartbreaking. Meticulously incorporated throughout the book’s design, along with reproductions of archival materials, Byrd’s (Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!) folk art–style ink-and-watercolor illustrations vividly capture the landscapes and people of West Africa, Cuba, and the U.S.
The storybooklike narrative of a child torn between two worlds is captivating, and Byrd’s finely lined color illustrations add to the story, as do reproductions of historical documents.
The prose is taut, and Magulu has a friendly voice, while Byrd’s sprightly, delicately lined ink and watercolor illustrations are filled with deep visual detail. A few archival document reproductions are interspersed, captioned in Magulu’s voice, adding to the sense that readers are having a conversation with the past.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
[F]ascinating. A little known story filled with original research that’s a great read from start to finish. ... [N]othing comes close to "Africa Is My Home" in terms of sure research, heart, blood, sweat, and tears... it works so well on the page as to seem effortless.
—A Fuse #8 Production
Compelling... Narrated in a remarkable first-person voice, this fictionalized book of memories of a real-life figure retells history through the eyes of a child — from seeing mirrors for the first time and struggling with laughably complicated clothing to longing for family and a home she never forgets. Lush, full-color illustrations by Robert Byrd, plus archival photographs and documents, bring an extraordinary journey to life.
Finding beauty amid tragedy, Africa Is My Home offers middle grade readers a remarkable glimpse of this overlooked yet significant moment in American history.
[A] remarkable story... Robert Byrd's illustrations soften the suffering, without ever denying it. An excellent author's note explains that the somewhat fictionalized story is based on a real child.
—The Sunday Plain Dealer