Sunday, October 21, 2018

Shelf Awareness--Africville

PB Review: Africville

Africville by Shauntay Grant, illus. by Eva Campbell (Groundwood Books, $18.95, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-7, 9781773060439)

A modern girl daydreams of how life used to be in the once-thriving black community of Africville in Shauntay Grant (Up Home) and Eva Campbell's picture book collaboration.

Located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, at "the end of the ocean,/ where waves come to rest/ and hug the harbor stones," Africville is a place, the child imagines, where "the houses lay out like a rainbow" and "home/ smells like/ sweet apple pie/ and blueberry duff." With berry picking "up over the hill," playing football at "the Caterpillar Tree," rafting "at Tibby's pond" and bonfires "burning red/ like the going-down sun," readers will savor the sweet vision of what life in Africville might have been like.

But, as the backmatter reveals, even though Africville was a "vibrant, self-sustaining community," tax-paying residents had to deal with all kinds of adversity. They lived without such basic services as "running water, sewers and paved roads" and their town became home to "all kinds of unpleasant facilities," including a slaughterhouse and a city dump. Africville was demolished in the 1960s and then, after plenty of opposition, was declared a National Historic Site of Canada in 2002. Former residents later received an official apology from the City of Halifax, and "a replica of the community's church was built on its original site, and... now operates as a museum."

Evocative art, deftly rendered in oil and pastel on canvas, brings to life the heartfelt blending of past and present that coexists in this loving tribute to the Africville community. The final uplifting spreads depict an annual reunion festival now held at the town's original site. Though Africville is gone, young readers may find comfort in the book's final words: "memories turn to dreams, and dreams turn to hope, and hope never ends." --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI.

Discover: A young girl daydreams about the once-thriving community of Africville, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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