Scott O'Dell (1898-1989), one of the most respected authors of historical fiction, received the Newbery Medal, three Newbery Honor Medals, and the Hans Christian Andersen Author Medal, the highest international recognition for a body of work by an author of books for young readers. Some of his many books include The Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Road to Damietta, Sing Down the Moon, and The Black Pearl.
In a boxed review, PW said, ``O'Dell's story is ultimately life-affirming, a moving tribute to the dignity of the human spirit. It is a magnificent tale, superbly told by a grand master of historical fiction.'' Ages 10-14. (Oct.)
Gr 6-8-- Raisha, a 16-year-old Senegalese girl, is betrothed to Konje, the young king of her tribe. They are betrayed by a rival ruler, sold to slavers, and taken to the Danish Virgin Islands. The island is plagued by drought, and the owners of the plantation to which both she and her lover have been sold are listless, indifferent managers. The slaves are controlled with acts of cruelty and torture which are mandated by the local governor, but many have escaped to isolated encampments from which they communicate through African talking drums. Konje escapes and quickly becomes the leader in a nearby camp, and Raisha later joins him as both the cruel punishments and revolution grow. The rebel slaves are able to ward off a first, half-hearted attack but are then trapped by a troop of French soldiers from nearby Martinique. Facing almost certain torture and death, the slaves throw themselves from the cliffs into the sea--all except Raisha who chooses to save the life of her unborn child. The events portrayed are dramatic, and the story is a compelling indictment of slavery, but unfortunately, none of the characters achieve full dimension. The detached narrative style which O'Dell has used effectively in past novels serves here to hold readers at a distance and limits any sense of the emotions Raisha would experience under such painful circumstances. Many events (such as the long journey from Africa) are passed over so quickly that there's little sense of time or the suffering involved. Still, the novel gives a clear picture of historic events which are unfamiliar to many readers and shows once again the dehumanizing effect slavery had on both slaves and their owners. --Eleanor K. MacDonald, Beverly Hills Public Library
O'Dell, like a conjurer, weaves worlds out of words . . . [He] doesn't spare readers any of the grim realities of slavery; the details . . . are at times almost unbearably painful . . . The ending . . . is so powerful, so searing, it will leave readers stunned. Publishers Weekly