- Never Forgotten by Patricia C. McKissack; artwork by Leo & Diane Dillon
- Hardcover: 48 pages
- Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (October 11, 2011)
- ISBN-13: 978-0375843846
She Is Too Fond of Books’ review: Before I talk about this beautiful book itself, I want to share what inspired Patricia C. McKissack to write this tribute to those who were captured in the slave trade. McKissack indicates that she often wondered about the grief-stricken family and friends who were left behind when loved ones were kidnapped (or “Taken” with a capital “T”). She wondered about mourning rituals or commemorations honoring those whose fates were unknown. McKissack was unable to find information about any specific ceremonies that address the situation, but she felt certain that these captured people were loved and missed.
She turned to African folklore and history, pulling the Mother Elements of Earth, Fire, Water, and Wind as characters in a free-verse story. Dinga is a blacksmith in Mende (West Africa); his daily work is made possible by earth, fire, water, and wind. When Dinga’s wife dies in childbirth, he opts to raise his son alone – aided by the Mother Elements and the people of his village.
“A large sea creature led me to the Silver Star,a two-hundred-ton brig bound for a western shore.Its belly bulged with children snatchedFrom Mother Africa’s arms.They screamed curses in a tangle of languages,Prayed to God, Allah, and Oshun.Death was the Captain of that ship;Suffering, an apt first mate;Cruelty, the crew.…Yet I heard a single voice singing above the din.It was not a joyful song or a carol of glee,But a ballad of defiance.It was Musafa.‘The drumbeat has changed,We must change our dance.Stop crying.Be stubborn.Refuse to die!Live!’And even though many of his fellow captivesCould not understand his language,They were comforted.”
Three years passed, and Wind returned to Dinga; she had discovered a way that she could search for Musafa – with the help of her sisters. As Wind gathered speed over Mother Earth’s Sahara Desert, Fire added lightning; Wind picked up Water as she spun and twisted across the ocean. She reached the Americas as a hurricane, and found Musafa working as an apprentice for a blacksmith in Charleston. Wind returned to Dinga, sharing the story of their son, proudly carrying on the work of his own father and the six generations before him.
The illustrations that accompany the story are truly artwork. The husband and wife duo of Leo and Diane Dillon were inspired by traditional African woodblock printing to create heavy lined acrylic and watercolor paintings, echoing the culture that is reflected in McKissack’s words. The Dillons have twice won the Caldecott Medal, have five times been given the New York Times Best Illustrated Awards, and have received numerous Coretta Scott King Awards.
Never Forgotten is an important story, beautifully rendered in free-verse poems and striking illustrations; highly recommended.