Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Africville, written by Shauntay Grant and illustrated by Eva Campbell. Groundwood. 2018. $18.95 ages 5 and up
"Take me up over the hill
where the berries are thick
then meet me
at the Caterpillar Tree.
From there we'll run
Back the Field for football,
and go rafting down at
The first time I heard mention of Africville happened when I was visiting my son while he was living in Halifax. I was, and am, sad to say I knew little about it. This lovely new picture book helps to rectify that.
A young child arrives at 'the end of the ocean' in a place that gives a historical perspective for the Africville community. Her observations offer a tribute to its beauty and its place in history. Some of what she sees evokes shared events with all children; others are specific to the site itself. She watches as children play football, go rafting, catch fish, and enjoy a bonfire.
Other scenes take her to the shore at dawn, and then to see the families who made their lives there. She sees her grandmother's grave marker, sings and shares stories in a tent with others. In the final spread we see her eating an ice cream cone and understanding that this reunion is special. It honors is a place:
"where memories turn to dreams,
and dreams turn to hope,
and hope never ends."
The text is meaningful and economical, while full of emotion. The exceptional artwork brings Africville to life using oils and pastels on canvas. Endmatter describes Africville, a black community that dated back to the late 1700s. It was a 'vibrant, self-sustaining community that thrived in the face of opposition.' Its history is shared, and readers are given further information and resources for where to find out more.
Of this book Ms. Grant says: "My hope for readers is that whoever picks up the book will feel something, they’ll learn something about Africville, but they’ll also get that universal feeling of home from the text which I think we can all relate to no matter where we come from."
It does that beautifully.