"This infectiously exuberant, dazzlingly illustrated tale celebrates carnival magic, ancestral history, freedom, community and family love"
Being confirmed admirers of Yaba Badoe’s fiction for older readers, we were thrilled to hear about her first work for younger children, with Joelle Avelino’s beautifully bright, dynamic illustrations promising the perfect feast of words and pictures. As expected, the result certainly lives up to its promise. Set in present-day Notting Hill, Man Man and the Tree of Memories is a bedazzlement of carnival magic, African-Caribbean culture and ancestral connections.
We meet young Man-man in Notting Hill as he’s practising his carnival dance steps, with his nan recently arrived from Jamaica to take care of his ill mother. With “Let Freedom Rain” the theme of this year’s carnival, Man-man’s Aunt Flo, a costume-making seamstress, asks who he’s going to be, explaining that “for one day and one day only, you can decide who you are and feel it deep down.” Such is the magic of carnival.
While Man-man keeps his plans a secret from everyone but Aunt Flo, his exuberance invokes the Queen of Revels, whom he asks to make his mum better. This sees Man-man, along with his best friend and sister, swept back in time and across the world to Africa. Here, after they assemble around the Tree of Memories and witness painful, brutal realities of Man-man’s family’s heritage, Man-man comes to understand how the anguish held in the Tree is afflicting his mother. Propelled by profound love and newfound knowledge, hope, joy and freedom burst forth. What a splendidly inventive book.
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