Haligonian Shauntay Grant Shares the Essence of a Place and its People in Africville

Lisa Doucet reviews Shauntay Grant's Africville, which is a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award, Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books

Shauntay Grant, illustrates by Eva Campbell
Groundwood Books
(Ages 4 to 7)

“Take me to the end of the ocean…”

So begins this paean to the once-thriving Nova Scotian community of Africville. Located along Halifax’s Bedford Basin, it was home to a close-knit Black community that, throughout its more than 150 year history, was consistently under-served, mistreated and ultimately razed.

This book recalls the spirit of Africville and its people: the colourful houses nestled along the water’s edge and the sun coming up over the water; children picking berries, playing football and rafting at Tibby’s Pond; catching codfish and gathering round a bonfire at the end of the day at Kildare’s Field.

As the protagonist attends a modern-day festival that honours Africville, she envisions it as its former residents remember it, and she savours her own personal connection to this place when she finds her great-grandmother’s name inscribed on a memorial sundial.

In her latest picture book, Haligonian Shauntay Grant once again captures a place and its people. A

fricville will touch the hearts of adults as surely as it will its intended audience. Grant’s perfectly-paced free verse poetry has a gentle, hypnotic quality that flows through the narrative and invites the reader to savour each word and the myriad images the words evoke. Eva Campbell’s illustrations are bold, bright and filled with energy and motion. In some cases, the faces are expressive and filled with emotion. On other pages they are blurred and indistinct, letting the bodies tell the story. Each page is richly textured and visually depicts the warmth, the intimacy of this community as well as the natural beauty of the landscape.

Together, the text and illustrations create a vivid portrait of what Africville once was. Young readers may be inspired to not only read the information included at the back of the book but to also check out the suggestions for further information.

Written By

Lisa Doucet is the co-manager of Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax. She shares her passion for children’s and young adult books as our young readers editor and book reviewer.

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