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Reviewed by:
  • Way Up and Over Everything
  • Deborah Stevenson
McGill, Alice, ad. Way Up and Over Everything; illus. by Jude Daly. Houghton, 2008. 32p ISBN 978-0-618-38796-0 $16.00 R* 5-8 yrs

"My great-grandmama's mama told her and she told me this story about a long time ago," says McGill about this family-heirloom version of "The People Could Fly." The tale is set on the Georgia plantation where the narrator's "great-grandmama's mama," named Jane, is enslaved. When five new Africans, unable to speak English, arrive, their self-possession draws interest from the slave community and suspicion from the overseer and master. After a morning's hard labor planting cotton, the five slip away, whereupon the master and overseer pursue them; when they're found, the five Africans step away into the air and take flight. Though the white men attempt to threaten Jane, the only black witness, into silence about the Africans' escape, she spreads the tale far and wide. The storytelling voice is descriptive but restrained, effectively letting the story's own power carry it, with occasional turns of phrase that enhance the vividness ("Ol' Man Deboreaux rubbed his face like his eyes didn't know how to tell him the truth"). The ancestral framing of the tale gives it an extra thematic resonance, with the tale-telling itself becoming the steps to flight of the woman left behind and, subsequently, her family's legacy. Daly's smooth, stylized watercolors with their trim, distant figures are an interesting choice for this emotional story; the scenes appear as dramatic tableaux, perhaps evoking their status as passed-down memory, since the scenes depicting the story's transmission are more immediate. Kids will be fascinated by this classic African-American folktale, and this version, with its clear reverence for familial transmission, would be an interesting partner for Woodson's Show Way (BCCB 1/06), perhaps even prompting young listeners to ask their own families about historic stories. McGill includes a note about her family's history with the tale. [End Page 484]



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