Under the Same Sun

illus. by AG Ford. 40p. glossary. maps. photos. Scholastic. 2014. RTE $17.99. ISBN 9780545166720. LC 2012015732.
K-Gr 3—This earnest, though overstuffed, story begins as a dual celebration of the author's loving family and of the culture and landscape of Tanzania. Sharon and her mother arrive for a visit with her brother David and his family, who live in the East African nation, and after several days of market-going, hair-braiding, and other charmingly mellow depictions of the local culture, the family surprises the matriarch with a Serengeti safari for her 85th birthday. Ford's acrylic and oil illustrations provide warm visuals for the family celebration and scenes of the magnificent savannah denizens as they lounge, lope, and spring, part of the astonishing splendor of the countryside. Unfortunately, the story then takes a jarring tonal shift. After 24 pages of jubilant family gathering and animal viewing, the following page yields a somber, nondescript view of stone ruins-the remnants, readers learn, of a coastal slave-trading post. The book continues with several pages about the post and the family's ancestral bondage, including impactful illustrations rendered in conventionally "historical" sepia tones and an incomplete definition of slavery. Problematically, the matriarch offers a well-intentioned comparison between the emotions of the captives severed from their homes and loved ones at this slave-ship port and her thriving family's sadness at living at an ocean's distance. Though David gently rebuts the statement, the moment encapsulates the book's startling tonal inconsistency in depicting the reunited family's cheery wildlife excursion and attempting to incorporate the solemn reality of centuries of oppression. Back matter includes an author's note, map, Swahili glossary, and photos of preparing a Tanzanian meal.—Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY
Robinson draws on her own experiences in this story about a family reunion in Tanzania to celebrate a special birthday. The extended, bi-continental family reflects on its ancestors' capture and forced emigration from Africa to enslavement in the U.S. Ford's paintings convey the loving family's bond. An author's note, map, glossary of Swahili words, and family photos enhance the lengthy, purposeful text.

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