In the Time of the Drums

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French version of the DVD companion book

Winner of the CSK Illustrated Award.

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French version of the DVD companion book

Winner of the CSK Illustrated Award.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Siegelsons (The Terrible, Wonderful Tellin at Hog Hammock) lyrical retelling of a Gullah legend seems to pulse in time to the goatskin drums of the Sea Islands, the setting for this haunting tale. Young Mentu lives with his African-born grandmother Twi, an Ibo conjure woman. Though Mentu exhibits a strength beyond his years, Twi cautions him to save his energy: Soon it will be your time to be strong-strong, she says. As the two watch the workers in the fields, Twi tells her grandson how slavery has broken them....The old ways had slowly slipped away and been left behind like sweat drops in a newly plowed row. One day, a ship arrives, its cargo an entire village of Ibo people; from the hold of the ship, they hear the sound of Twi beating her goatskin drums, and think they have returned home. When they see the foreign shores, however, the Ibos sing words familiar to Twi: Say the water brought em cross the passage and it can take em back, fe true, she translates for Mentu. Working her magic, Twi leads the Ibo people into the water, where, legend has it, they walked all the way back to Africa on the bottom of the ocean. Siegelson subtly lays the groundwork for Twis double meaning, as the grandmother builds a sense of history (it takes a mighty strength not to forget). The parting scene shows Mentu teaching his daughter the songs that Twi taught him. Pinkneys (The Faithful Friend) finely etched art dramatically captures the storys simultaneous sadness and hope, contrasting such images as the ships shadowy hold with a narrow opening of sun-filled sky where Twis drumbeats fill the air, and Twi leading the Ibo people into a swirling, yet smooth sea filled with a spectrum of sherbet-colored hues as their chains melt away. At once magical yet chillingly real, this is a thought-provoking and memorable work. Ages 6-9. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Heidi Green
Both textually and visually, In the Time of Drums is a captivating tale. Mentu was born on a Sea Island off the Georgia coast and has never known Africa. However, in the care of his Ibo conjure-woman grandmother Twi, he learns the stories, songs and drum rhythms of his people. When a slave ship full of Ibo people arrives at the island, Twi takes action. With the words "Come with me, my brothers and sisters. I will take you home," she leads them into Teakettle Creek and, walking under the water, back to their homeland. Mentu grows and passes along his strength-the stories, songs and drum rhythms-to his own children. The Author's Note clarifies the history of the tale and the author's relationship to it.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-A Gullah story brought into beautiful focus by Pinkney's trademark scratchboard-on-oil drawings. Mentu and his grandmother, Twi, are plantation slaves who live on an island off the coast of Georgia. Twi knows some "powerful root magic" and still yearns for her African home. She remembers the stories and the rhythms of the drums, and shares them with Mentu. One day, a ship bearing new slaves arrives in Teakettle Creek, and the island people beat ``ancient rhythms" on their drums announcing the ship's arrival. At first the Ibos think they are back in Africa; when they realize they are not, they refuse to leave the ship. Suddenly, Twi hangs her charm bag on Mentu's neck and begins to run toward the water. Magically, the years slip off her as she beckons to the newcomers. Together, they break away from the slave catchers and disappear under the water. Mentu believes that they are walking home to freedom. This well-told story is unusual and powerful. It raises some interesting questions about the meaning and value of freedom, and of literal interpretation of text. The rhythms hint at Gullah language, but the narrative is clear, accessible, and at the same time poetic. Pinkney's illustrations enhance the power of the tale by being at once realistic and mystical. This thought-provoking story would be a splendid addition to any collection.-Linda Greengrass, Bank Street College Library, New York City Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Patricia J. Williams
...[F]ull of slavery's unhappy history [but still] it is a fine example of a genre paradoxically remarkable for the comfort and sustenance it delivers. Brian Pinkney's gentle and luminous scratchboard illustrations provide subtly intelligent counterpoint to the text
The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786804368
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Publication date: 3/15/1999
  • Series: Jump at the Sun Bks.
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.75 (w) x 11.25 (h) x 0.35 (d)

Meet the Author

Kim Siegelson grew up hearing the unforgettable account of Africans walking into the water near Georgia's Sapelo Island, the story upon which In The Time of the Drums is based. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Brian Pinkney ( is the illustrator of many acclaimed books for children, including the Caldecott Honor Books Duke Ellington and The Faithful Friend, among others. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his children and his wife Andrea, with whom he often collaborates on books.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2005

    Book Review

    The book, In the Time of the Drums, by Kim L. Siegelson, is a story about the relationship between an island-born slave boy named Mentu and his grandmother, Twi, a woman who had grown up in Africa before she was captured and sent away to work on the island where the story takes place on the east coast of America. It is through her stories, secrets, and teachings of the songs played on the drums that Mentu finally understands what it means to be strong in the face of despair. If I could come up with a word that could describe this book, it would be ¿descriptive.¿ All of the words seemed to leap out at me with tons of imagery. I could actually see Mentu, Twi, and the island where they lived from my dorm room. The image of the island and its people that Brian Pinkney, the illustrator, drew also matched up perfectly with the life I envisioned Twi and Mentu having, from the look of the island and thatched roof huts to the clothes that they wore and the goat-skin drums that they played. All of these elements contributed greatly to the descriptive nature of this book and made it one that is a must-read for all young readers ages 8 and up. I also liked the fact that this book focused on the theme of keeping one¿s heritage and culture alive at all costs. In a society where students of different cultures become ¿Americanized,¿ it is important for young readers to value the differences they see among themselves along with their similarities. While similarities can bring all types of people together, it is our differences that make each individual unique and important in a multicultural society.

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