Monday, November 11, 2013

Africa is My Home: A Child of the Amistad by Monika Edinger, illustrated by Robert Byrd

The Amistad Revolt has been the subject of many books, movies and classrooms and even law schools for many years now.  Which means that we have learned about the Amistad from various male points of view, but never have we heard about it from the vantage point of one of the four underage female children that had also been abducted from Mendeland, West Africa (now Sierra Leone) and shipped to Havana, Cuba to be sold.  Until now.

Africa is my Home is the story of Margru, only 9 years old sold to slave traders.  Her journey began when famine struck her country.  Her father was forced to pawn her out for rice to feed the rest of the family.  But when he couldn't pay his debt, Margru was sold to traders and put on the ship Amistad along with 52 other men, women and children, who had either been abducted or used as pawn and sold like Margru.

In Cuba, the adults and four children were sold and put on the Amistad, heading to a Caribbean plantation.  But along the way, the men, led by a young African man nicknamed Cinque, rebelled, and after much fighting and death, took over the ship and attempted to sail back to Africa.  But, deceived by the ships navigator, they found themselves landing on the eastern tip of Long Island, NY and from there, they were placed into custody in New Haven, CT.  The adults went on trial, the children were used as witnesses.

And it is here that Margru's education began, leading her all the way to Oberlin College and eventually returning to Africa as a teacher.

Although Africa is my Home, is based on real persons and events, it should be remembered that it is a work of historical fiction.  I say this because you might have a little trouble remembering it, since the writing is just that good.  It is clear that Monica Edinger feels quite passionately about this story and has  really done her research.

Writing from a child's perspective, we can palpably feel Margu's homesickness, confusion and fear, as well as her ambiguity about putting on western-style clothing, her dislike of snow and her desire for a "free" name, eventually choosing to call herself Sarah Kinson.

I did find that the writing was somewhat uneven.  Sometimes it is just beautifully lyrical, the poems that are included are truly lovely, but the prose was occasionally flat, and it jarred me out of the story, despite the enthusiasm that I know Edinger feels for her subject.  Still, this is a solid 4 Star book.

Africa is my Home is wonderfully illustrated by Robert Byrd, whose work prompted me to buy Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! a few years ago, before I had even read it.  The ink and watercolor illustrations are all done in colors, shades and tones that reflect the greens and blues of Africa, the colorful images of Cuba, the darkness of the Amistad, and pastels of dreams and poems, enhancing and extending the story being told.

Africa Is My Home is wonderful supplement to a difficult topic and time in American history and is a must for all school libraries or, better yet, all classrooms.  Back matter includes an Author's Note and list of selected sources.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was borrowed from a friend

The National Archives offers original documents pertaining to the Amistad Rebellion, including teaching activities and a printable document analysis worksheet.  You may access them HERE


  1. The cover is amazing and the book sounds absolutely wonderful. I like that it is told from a child's perspective which helps children comprehend what people faced at that time. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This looks like such an amazing book! I love when authors make difficult subjects like this accessible to children. I am a fan of Robert Byrd, and the cover illustration looks stunning. I will definitely suggest this book to my friends - especially the teachers!
    Thanks for sharing with the Kid Lit Blog Hop!


Imagination Designs