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The Middle Passage

by Tom Feelings

Book list In his introduction, Feelings, known best for his children's book celebrating African creativity, Soul Looks Back in Wonder (1993), explains why he chose to create this picture book for adults about the Middle Passage, the horrific transatlantic journey that brought enslaved Africans to the land of their imprisonment. Racial violence in the U.S. during the 1960s had filled him with despair, prompting him to move to Ghana to nurture the joy he could still detect deep in his heart. Living in Africa was a soul-saving affirmation of self and creativity for Feelings, but it also forced him to confront the brutal reality of the slave trade. It took Feelings 20 years to complete this wrenching but forthright and, ultimately, cathartic work of art, testimony not only to our capacity for evil, but also to the triumph of the spirit and of beauty. --Donna Seaman

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal YA?Feelings's art speaks to the soul in this magnificent visual record of the Black Diaspora in the Americas. Clarke provides a concise narrative of the slave trade, and then readers pause at a double-spread image of a man, woman, bird, sun, and land before the pages become horrific. Guns, yokes, chains, whips, knives?one can see anger, grief, sadness, pain, and almost hear the screams coming from the captives' open mouths. The crowded holes, ankle chains, branding, rats, and sharks swarming around the ship as bodies are thrown overboard all build, image by image, to the reality of man's inhumanity to man. White enforcers are depicted more as wisps than as defined persons, while blacks are primarily drawn with sharp definition. The art is rendered in pen-and-ink and tempera on rice paper and printed in tritone (two black inks and one gray, plus a neutral press varnish). The satin feel of the thick, oversized pages; the black endpapers; the gray introductory and end matter; and pure white backgrounds for the journey itself demonstrate the care that went into the book's production. A powerfully rendered reality that all teens deserve the opportunity to experience.?Barbara Hawkins, Oakton High School, Fairfax, VA

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