As Ibram Kendi writes in a note at the end, this book is adapted from a short story by Zora Neale Hurston published in 1925.
The story is told by a river to a brook, wanting to know about people in love. The river complies, and begins to tell the brook about Magnolia Flower, a girl born of an escaped slave and a Cherokee woman four years before the Civil War.
When Magnolia Flower grew up, she fell in love with a man named John.
“John had taught Magnolia to read strange marvels with her dark eyes, and she had taught John to sing with his.”
But Magnolia’s father disapproved of John – this poor man of words instead of guns, and the young couple had to flee, taking a boat northward: “‘That happened more than forty years ago, as humans reckon time,’ River said.”
But River still knew of them: “The tide brought all their tears to me. And their joy. And their love. Their love is Mighty and ever flowing like me.”
What happens at the end of the story is beautiful.
Lush, gorgeous illustrations by Loveis Wise bring the setting alive and add a magical quality.
The book concludes with an historical note and an author’s note. In the latter, Kendi writes:
“Love is a consistent theme in Hurston’s work and again in this book. Love is conveyed as a formative force, a binding force, an eternal force, marking this book as another moving Hurston love story. A love story of freedom. A love story of nature. A love story of Afro-indigenous resistance. A love story of home.”
The book is bracketed by luxuriant and exquisite magnolia flowers on the end papers.
Evaluation: Readers aged 4 and over will pour over the narration and pictures in this stunning and moving book. In addition, the story will introduce many readers to the pre-Civil War existence of colonies of free Blacks and relocated Native peoples, and how their fates sometimes intertwined.
Published by Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2022