Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Reader's Diary #152- Virginia Kroll (Author) and Floyd Cooper (Illustrator): Faraway Drums

Faraway Drums is the story of two African girls who move with their mother to a faraway city (New York maybe?). The older sister, Jamila is put in charge of her younger sister, Zakiya while their mother goes off to work. After the mother leaves, Zakiya becomes afraid of her new surroundings and Jamila comforts her by relating the scary unfamiliar noises back to African sounds. Two people in the street fighting over a car? No, hyenas bickering over scraps. Sirens? No, monkeys fighting over a juicy cocoa pod. And so on.

There are so many wonderful things about this book, that it's probably just best to list them (in no particular order):

1. The voice- Told from Jamila's point of view, hers is a rich voice, full of character. From the subtle ways she drops the "g"s on words (i.e., bickerin', screechin', etc), to the care she shows her little sister ("After, she lies on the sofa in her purple pajamas, smellin' sweet."). Jamila's voice is believable and likeable.

2. Related to the first point, The characters- In particular, Jamila's mother. Despite the fact that she's leaving her children alone, you get the idea she's in turmoil about it. She gives them hugs and reassurances and in the accompanying illustration you see the stress in her face. Also, Jamila. As Zakiya finally drifts off to sleep, Jamila listens to her sleeping and remarks, "Little lioness purrin'". I love how subtly the author suggests that perhaps Zakiya wasn't the only one comforted by African images.

3. The unique perspective- It's great that the same images that give comfort to these girls are the same ones that would scare many of us in this part of the world. A great project for students might be retelling the story with a girl (or themselves) going to Africa.

4. The illustrations- Soft, lifelike and very compelling. As Jamika mentions elephants, monkeys and so on, we see them actually in the apartment with them a la Allsburg's Jumanji. Yet my favourite is the picture with the lamp shade whose pattern mutates slowly into red ants. It sort of reminded me of the Gonsalves illustrations in the Imagine A Day/Night books, only less pretentious.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Your description makes me wish I had youngsters to read this with.

John Mutford said...

Wow. I was only hoping to sell people on the book. But hey, if people want to procreate- go right ahead.

Barbara Bruederlin said...


John Mutford said...

Seriously though, it IS a good book to read with youngsters. But, like kids' movies, it can be enjoyed by adults as well. You could be like those adults at the movies who pretend their kid is out getting popcorn with their hubbies. Get the book at the library and pretend it's for a niece or something.