In the Time of the Drums

5603906Title: In the Time of the Drums

Author: Kim L. Siegelson

Illustrator: Brian Pinkney

Publisher and Year: Hyperion Books For Children, 1999

Number of pages: 28 pages

Tags/Themes: Award Book, Colleen Swanson, Slavery, Culture, 6-8, Social Science, Diversity, Emotion, Fine Arts, Music

Genre: Historical Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: This Coretta Scott King award winning book follows a young African boy named Mentu and his life as slave on Teakettle Creek Island. Mentu lives with his grandmother named Twi, who was originally born in Africa. One day Mentu and Twi are fetching water when they hear drums in the distance. The drums where signaling that a ship had come and Mentu then plays his drum back to signal he had heard the call. The ship carries a village of African people from Benin who had been enslaved and brought to the island to be sold. The enslaved Africans on the ship began to sing a song from their homeland as they are brought to the deck. Mentu recognizes the song as one Twi had sung to him as a little boy. Twi then runs down to the ship, takes the hands of the enslaved, and begins to walk with them into the water. The enslaved African and Twi chant “The water will take us home” as they walk deeper and deeper into the water and disappear. The story concludes many years later with an adult Mentu teaching his children the songs on the drums Twi had taught him as a young boy.  This captivating story is enhanced throughout with its vivid illustrations. The images on each page are a mix of paint and carvings to create a colorful dreamlike appearance. There are one to two paragraphs of text on each page making this story more suitable to the upper grades. In addition, students reading this book would benefit from some background knowledge on the slave trade, slave ships, and what live was like for slaves once they arrived in America.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity: This story focuses on the Ibo African culture and particularly those who were taken from Africa and enslaved in America. The book specifically looks at the African culture celebrated by the slaves in America and the significance of the drums and stories from their homeland. In the Time of the Drums can be used to generate a discussion on the slave trade and the slave ships that brought the enslaved to America. The cultural diversity of the story is also enhanced through the illustrations and names of the characters. All of the people pictured are African slaves and with traditional African names, such as Mentu and Twi.

Interdisciplinary Connections: In the Time of the Drums is a story that is best suited for the middle grade 6-8 due to the content, text length per page, and text difficulty. With that being said, this text can easily be integrated with many subjects at the middle school level. Specifically I see this text being used in a Social Studies class when discussing the slave trade and slave ships. In addition, this story would be beneficial in a Music class when looking at music from the African culture and the importance of the drum.

Other Information: Overall I really enjoyed this story because of the central focus on the African culture and traditions of the slaves in America. I felt as though the importance of the story was more on the culture and music of the Africans rather than slavery, which is something I have not seen in a children’s book until now. As indicated before this text is best suited for the middle school grades due to the content and text complexity. If I were use this text in my own classroom, I would read the story and then ask students to journal about their thoughts and emotions when they heard the ending of the book. The story ends with a bit of uncertainty as to what really happens to Twi and the slaves who disappeared into the water so I would be interested to hear my students’ thoughts and opinions. I believe all students will enjoy this story because of the captivating storyline as well as the vivid and unique illustrations.

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