Reviews for Never Forgotten

Booklist Reviews 2011 September #1
*Starred Review* The Dillons illustrated the late Virginia Hamilton's classics The People Could Fly (1985) and Many Thousand Gone (1993), both of which told the stories and history of Africans captured and brought across the ocean as slaves. Now, in accessible free verse, McKissack writes from the viewpoint of the Africans left behind, who can only imagine what happens to those who are "taken" and never heard from again. The focus is on one father, the widower blacksmith Dinga, who raises his beloved son, Musafa, with the help of the Mother Elements: Earth, Fire, Water, and Wind. Then one day, Musafa is gone forever; he has become one of the Taken. Unable to stop the attackers, Earth and Fire report to Dinga that Musafa has become one of the captives, and Water follows Musafa's ship through the horror of the Middle Passage. Later, Wind travels to America and reports back to Dinga that he has found Musafa (now called Moses) in Charleston, where he lives as a blacksmith's gifted apprentice. The dramatic, thickly outlined acrylic-and-watercolor illustrations extend the story's magical realism and intensify the anguish and grief in the words. Both words and images come together in a conclusion that brings hope, with the promise of freedom and Musafa's powerful resolve never to forget his roots: "I learn by reaching back with one hand. And stretching forward with the other." Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
In 1725 Mali, Dinga the Blacksmith calls upon the Mother Elements to help him raise his boy, Mustafa. When Mustafa disappears, Wind, with help from Earth, Fire, and Water, travels to a blacksmith shop in Charleston, South Carolina, where Mustafa has been enslaved. The Dillons' rousing illustrations--at once bold, complex, and lucid--impart dramatic conviction to McKissack's free-verse text. Copyright 2012 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2011 #5
By nature, McKissack tells homespun stories; the Dillons create monumental images. Together at last, can they find common ground? It's McKissack -- with her portentous title, with her mix of history, mythological entities, and griot ideophones ("Swi Swi a Swi") -- who budges. In 1725 Mali, Dinga the Blacksmith scorns advice that he remarry to provide milk and a gentle hand for his newborn, motherless son, and instead calls upon the Mother Elements -- Earth, Fire, Water, Wind -- to help him raise the boy Mustafa. (Fire, for one, blows the babe a warm kiss.) As his father's apprentice, Mustafa is a dud at making spears or tools, a genius at making beautiful "useless objects," like a "stand of savannah grass." Then Mustafa disappears and Dinga, desperate, again invokes the Elements. Earth reports that Mustafa is one of the Taken, Fire's attempt to intercede is stopped at the shore, Water follows the captives to coastal slave markets, and Wind waits her chance...until, with strategic help from Earth, Fire, and Water, she is transformed into a Hurricane and travels to a blacksmith shop in Charleston, South Carolina, where Mustafa is decorating gates with "birds, flowers, and animals inspired by his memories of home." The son who was "never forgotten" hasn't forgotten his heritage, either. The free-verse text can weigh heavily on the ear, but the Dillons' rousing illustrations -- at once bold, complex, and lucid -- impart dramatic conviction to the thwarted Fire and the slave-boat beyond reach, the pursuing Wind peering into the Carolina blacksmith's window. barbara bader Copyright 2011 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 September #1

A searing cycle of poems describes a father's grief after his son is taken from their home in Mali and enslaved in America.

McKissack's tale of a father's grief, old ways carried to the new world and a circle broken and reforged to span the ocean itself echoes ancient storytelling traditions. An initial poem, "The Griot's Prelude," describes "men with the blue of the sky in their eyes" coming deep into the forests to take slaves. A Mende blacksmith in 18th-century, Mali raises his child himself when the infant's mother dies in childbirth. Dinga enlists the Mother Elements of Earth, Fire, Water and Wind as the elders who help to raise Musafa. Sounds of drums and song for each element (Fire is "Kiki Karum Kiki Karum Kiki Karum," while Water is "Shum Da Da We Da Shum Da Da We Da," for instance) emphasize the storyteller's voice in the narrative, inviting listeners to participate and engage. Full-page and border paintings in acrylic and watercolor use strong black lines, almost like woodcut engravings, in deep browns, earth colors and subtle jewel tones against creamy backgrounds. The boy learns to make beautiful objects of metal but is taken by slave traders, and it is years before Dinga learns from the Wind that his son, now Moses, has become a gifted apprentice blacksmith in Charleston, S.C., soon to be freed by the smithy owner.

A totally absorbing poetic celebration of loss and redemption. (author's note) (Picture book/poetry. 7-12)


Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 August #2

McKissack's (The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll) story about a Malian boy abducted and sold into slavery has frightening moments, but carries dignity and even triumph away from them. Forceful and iconic, the Dillons' (The Secret River) woodcut-style paintings use gentle colors and strong lines to telegraph scary sequences, but do not dwell on them. McKissack's free verse incorporates a Greek chorus of the elements Earth, Fire, Water, and Wind, who watch over the infant Musafa and assist his father, Dinga, in his blacksmith's work, but cannot save Musafa after he is brought to the New World. He surfaces in South Carolina, a gifted blacksmith like his father, and Wind, which has made itself into a hurricane to cross the ocean, is at last able to bring word to Dinga of his beloved son: "Though a slave, he lives!" Readers learn Musafa's owner may free him, but "In my mind," Wind hears Musafa say, "I have always been free,/ As free as Wind." The willingness to turn the dark history of the past into literature takes not just talent but courage. McKissack has both. All ages. (Oct.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 September

Gr 4-7--This story-in-verse begins centuries ago, when an African blacksmith named Dinga loses his wife in childbirth. Against the advice of others in his village, he decides to raise the baby himself. When his son, Musafa, grows up, he becomes an apprentice blacksmith, but before long, the slave ships come: "Beware/Of pale men riding in large seabirds/With great white wings." What happens after that makes for a moving story of loss and transcendence, and a loving tribute to the power of memory. McKissack's writing is as rhythmic and sure as the sound of the drumbeats she describes in the narrative. The Dillons' acrylic/watercolor paintings feature beautifully soft colors and heavy yet fluid lines. The pictures demonstrate the miracle of superb book illustration: how something that lies flat on the page can convey such depth, texture, and feeling. This sad but powerful tale will not be easily accessible to many kids, but here's hoping that there are a lot of patient and appreciative adults (teachers, parents, librarians) to introduce them to it.--Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 June

Gr 4-7--In a tribute to those who were stolen from homes in Africa to become slaves in the New World, McKissack weaves a tale (Schwartz & Wade, 2011) about a loving father and the young son who is taken from him. Dinga, a seventh-generation Mende blacksmith, is a talented and respected man. After his wife dies in childbirth, Dinga defies tradition, raising his son Musafa with the help of the Mother Elements--Earth, Fire, Water, and Wind. Musafa grows strong and wise. He becomes Dinga's apprentice, creating pretty, but useless objects. One day, while gathering wood, Musafa is captured. Dinga searches in vain for his son, then appeals to the Elements for help. They take turns following Musafa, reporting to Dinga of his son's passage, his courage, and finally, of his new life as a blacksmith in South Carolina. Dinga rejoices that Musafa is alive and that his talent for creating lovely objects could earn his freedom. Lizan Mitchell performs the passages of McKissack's 2012 Coretta Scott King Honor book melodiously and with fervor. The author's note was not recorded. Leo and Diane Dillon's acrylic and watercolor illustrations resemble woodcuts, superimposing bold figures on fainter ones, creating impressions of lingering spirits, evil, and sadness. Combining history, folk tales, and legend into a moving remembrance of families torn apart, this haunting story with its rich illustrations is strengthened by this wonderful audio interpretation.--MaryAnn Karre, West Middle School, Binghamton, New York

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