In the Time of the Drums

by Kim L. Siegelson and Brian Pinkney

A picture book based on a tale passed down orally among African Americans on the... read more

A picture book based on a tale passed down orally among African Americans on the sea islands off of the coast of Georgia and South Carolina acknowledges both the tragedy of slavery and the resilience of those who would remain free in spirit and soul. Mentu is a young island boy being raised by his grandmother, Twi. "Ibo conjure woman" the islanders call Twi because of the root medicine she knows. Twi explains to Mentu that the back-breaking field work has made most of the islanders forget the old ways that she still recalls. Only Mentu is not afraid of this woman who has raised him with love and firmness, who teaches him the old ways and how to be strong so that he will always know who he is. When a shipload of captives arrive--an entire village of Ibo people-Twi hears the rhythm of the drums in the beating of their feet. They are calling out for the water to take them back to Africa. Twi understands and answers the call, leading the captives into the sea Mentu, an island-born boy whom "the water will not take," is left behind to pass on the old songs and stories with the certainty that Twi and the other Ibo people did indeed find their way home. Kim Seigelson's haunting and beautiful rendering of a powerfully affirming story is accompanied by Brian Pinkney's movingly detailed scratchboard paintings. An author's note provides important background information on the origins of this story among the coastal island peoples of African descent. (Ages 7-10)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2000

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