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Friday, March 2, 2012

Never Forgotten, written by Patricia McKissack, with artwork by Leo and Diane Dillon. schwartz & wade, Random House. 2011. $20.99 all ages

"When Dinga invited the
Mother Elements
To help with his son's upbringing
They agreed.
Then he held the baby
Up to the night sky
And named him
Only the Universe is Greater!""

What a stunning book this is....I am so happy to be sharing it with you!

It is the story of life, love and loss and is told from a loving father's point of view. Dinga is an honored Blacksmith, and a leader in his community. When his wife dies following the birth of their son, Dinga is adamant that he will raise the child himself. There is much advice given against such an undertaking. Dinga is resolute.

In the 21 poems, carefully crafted by noted writer Patricia C. McKissack, we follow Musafa as he grows enveloped in the love and gentle rearing of his father:

"The years passed in a march of seasons.
The boy grew tall and strong
Under the loving eyes of his father
And the protective forces of the Mother Elements,
Who were his teachers,
His counselors,
His friends."

Musafa takes his place beside his father and learns the ways of a master craftsman. But, his heart is not in it. He loves to make beautiful things which his father does not appreciate. Then one day Musafa is sent to gather firewood and does not return. His father is disconsolate, and blames himself for his son's disappearance. Dinga and the villagers search desperately, calling for Musafa and longing for his return. It is Earth who returns with news:

"I watched as he was bound to other captives
Ankle to ankle.
I watched as he was force-marched toward the Big Water -
Tripping, stumbling, falling.
I watched him take a lash
Across his bare back so hard
His body trembled."

Dinga can do nothing. Fire makes an attempt to get him back, but must watch as the boat sails with Musafa aboard. Water brings news that Musafa is defiant and encouraging the other snatched children to be brave and LIVE! Water tells of where the Middle Passage ends and that Musafa's fate is sealed when he is sold as a slave.

It is terrifying and heartbreaking to think of what happened to so many! Patricia McKissack tells their story with passion and compassion for their plight. After three years without his son, and suffering great depression at his loss, Wind brings some solace:

"Our son has truly found the music in his hammer.
His fences, railings, and banisters
Are handsomely decorated with birds, flowers,
And animals inspired by his memories of home."

The news is welcome and the son remains forever in his father's heart:

"Dinga danced and feasted far into the night
With the Mother Elements by his side,
Celebrating the son who was taken,
But never forgotten."


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