Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl

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One long time ago, Pretty Pearl god child lived high on a mountaintop in Africa with all other gods. Curious about mankind and itching to show off her powers, she came down off the mountain with her brother, know-all best god John de Conquer, and sailed on a slave ship for America. There she saw the suffering of the black people, and felt their sorrow right behind her eyes . Pretty Pearl knew now was her time to act.Brother John gave her a magical necklace, a set of rules to follow, and a warning to be careful. ...

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One long time ago, Pretty Pearl god child lived high on a mountaintop in Africa with all other gods. Curious about mankind and itching to show off her powers, she came down off the mountain with her brother, know-all best god John de Conquer, and sailed on a slave ship for America. There she saw the suffering of the black people, and felt their sorrow right behind her eyes . Pretty Pearl knew now was her time to act.Brother John gave her a magical necklace, a set of rules to follow, and a warning to be careful. "Them human bein's be awful tricky," he said."they has most winnin' ways."

Drawing upon her fabulous storehouse of black legend, myth, and folklore, Virginia Hamilton has ventured into new ways of exploring the human spirit in this extrodinary fantasy filled with mysteries, beauty, and hope.

Pretty Pearl, a spirited young African god child eager to show off her powers, travels to the New World where, disguised as a human, she lives among a band of free blacks who have created their own separate world deep inside a vast forest.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Deborah Palgon
African and African-American folklore come to life in this fantasy by award winning author Virginia Hamilton. The story opens on Mount Kenya in Africa, home to the god child Pretty Pearl and all the other gods, including her brother John de Conquer. Curious about mankind, Pretty Pearl tells her brother what she has seen. "Well, it most strange," she said. "I spy de ones who out gatherin'. Some other ones come grab holt them, hit them and carry them off somewheres. Don't know where. It all seem most strange, though." Sympathetic to the plight of the humans she has seen, Pretty Pearl wants to help. First, however, her brother John de Conquer tells her she must learn patience and not interfere with human progress. Biding her time until a period after the Civil War, Pretty Pearl is finally given permission to descend to earth. Armed with talismans, spirits and the powerful de Conquer root, Pretty Pearl joins a group of independent blacks whose home is threatened by the coming of a railroad. This richly textured coming of age tale of the god child Pretty Pearl is absorbing and can be read and understood on many levels.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064401784
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/13/1986
  • Series: Harper Trophy Bks.
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Age range: 11 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 620L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.62 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Virginia Hamilton

Virginia Hamilton's books have won many awards and honors. One of these, the first book ever to win both the John Newbery Medal and the National Book Award, M.C. Higgins, the Great, was also the recipent of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. The Planet of Junior Brown was a Newbery Honor Book in 1971, and four of Virginia Hamilton's other books have been named Notable Children's books by the American Library Association.

Ms. Hamilton is married to Arnold Adoff, who is a distinguished poet and anthologist. They live with their two children in Ohio.


A writer of prodigious gifts, Virginia Hamilton forged a new kind of juvenile fiction by twining African-American and Native American history and folklore with contemporary stories and plotlines.

With Hamilton's first novel, Zeely, the story of a young farm girl who fantasizes that a woman she knows is a Watusi queen, she set the bar high. The book won a American Library Association Notable Children's Book citation. Hamilton rose to her own challenge, and every new book she published enriched American literature to such a degree that in 1995 she was awarded the ALA's Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for lifetime achievement.

Born in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and raised in an extended family of farmers and storytellers (her own father was a musician), Hamilton's work was inspired by her childhood experiences, family mythology, and Ohio River Valley homeland. In an article about the importance of libraries in children's lives, she credits her mother and the "story lady" at her childhood public library with opening her mind to the world of books.

Although she spent time in New York City working as a bookkeeper after college, and traveled widely in Africa and Europe, Hamilton spent most of her life in Yellow Springs, anchored by the language, geography, and culture of southern Ohio. In The House of Dies Drear, she arranged her story around the secrets of the Underground Railroad. In M. C. Higgins, the Great, winner of both a John Newbery Medal and a National Book Award, she chronicled the struggles of a family whose land, and life spirit, is threatened by strip mining. Publishers Weekly called the novel "one of those rare books which draws the reader in with the first paragraph and keeps him or her turning the page until the end."

In her series of folk-tale collections, including The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales, In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World, and Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales, Hamilton salvaged and burnished folk tales from cultures across the world for her stories; stories that suffused her fiction with its extraordinary blend of worldly and otherworldly events, enchantment, and modern reality. Virginia Hamilton died on February 19, 2002.

Good To Know

Hamilton's first research trip to a library was to find out more about her family's exotic chickens, which her mother called "rainbow layers," because of the many tints of the eggs they laid.

In 1995, Hamilton became the first children's writer to win a John D. and Catherine C. MacArthur "genius" grant.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      March 12, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Yellow Springs, Ohio
    1. Date of Death:
      February 19, 2002
    2. Place of Death:
      Yellow Springs, Ohio
    1. Education:
      Attended Antioch College, Ohio State University, and the New School for Social Research
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

One long time ago, Pretty Pearl yearned to come down from on high. One clear day it was, she daydreamed of leaving her home on Mount Kenya.

What good it is bein' a god chile, she thought, if I got to hang around up here all de time? What there for me to do when I beat all de god chil'ren at de games, and I learns everythin' so fast?

Great Mount Kenya of Africa was known as Mount Highness by Pretty Pearl and the other gods who lived there. It was a vast and glorious mountain of peaks, valleys, grasslands, forests, bare rock and glaciers. It was also an extinct volcano with a dome almost a hundred miles around. The Kikuyu, Embu and Meru human beings cultivated the lower slopes of the Mount. Some of the lesser gods on high kept a watch over them.

They too many of us gods, Pretty Pearl decided. We too scared to leave de Mount and find out what's goin' on.

I know! she thought all of a sudden. I'll go find my brother, see if he have somethin' for me to do.

Now the most powerful one of the gods who lived on Mount Highness was Pretty Pearl's older brother. He was John deConquer, and all knew him as the best god.

"Call me 'de Con-care,' " John always did say to the lesser gods. And "de Con-care" was always the way they called him.

Pretty and deConquer had an even older brother, also named John, who was the oldest of the three of them. He was John Henry Roustabout. John Henry had left the Mount for way-low ground ages ago.

"I expect John Henry think he 'most human by now," de Conquer had said one day to Pretty. He had frowned his disapproval. "John Henry livin' with ungodly peoples so long. I warn him'bout that before he left, so."

"Any which way John Henry go, and how far he go, he be trouble for somebody, usually himself," Pretty Pearl had said. She didn't know this to be true. She was only parroting what she had heard lesser gods say.

Can't much remember John Henry, she thought, he been gone so long.

But she had a warm feeling for her oldest brother, and she kept it deep inside. She knew in her god child's heart that he had gone far.

Now she hurried on, searching for her brother John de Conquer.

"You seen John de Conquer?" she asked a lesser god called Nandi.

"He over there in de bamboo grasses," said the god Nandi. "He makin' some him noisy drums for de god chil'ren." Nandi lay on the ground on his back with his legs crossed. He pushed the clouds around by fluttering his eyelashes.

"Humph!" Pretty Pearl said, hurrying away. "Everybody got nothin' to do!"

She entered a forest of bamboo that looked like trees. The bamboo's hollow stems were called culms, and they grew over a hundred feet high.

If these be grasses, Pretty thought as she'd thought before, then they grasses for de giants.

"Grasses for de gods," John deConquer corrected her, reading her mind.

"Oh!" Pretty exclaimed, jumping back. "John, you scare me! Was I talkin' out loud? I didn't see you lyin' there."

John de Conquer was lying flat, with just his head up against a tall bamboo. His ebony crown was low on his forehead. He had his hands clasped on the nape of his neck. His feet were crossed at his ankles. All around him were unfinished singing drums.

"How you doin', Pretty?" asked the best god, John de Conquer.

"Not too well," answered Pretty Pearl. She sat down beside her brother.

"Not so?" he asked. "Why come--you got fittin' pains agin?"

Occasionally, Pretty complained that she was fitting into god power too fast, worse than most god children, and that she ached all over.

"No fittin' pains," she said. "John, I got nothin' to do with myself."

"Play with de god chil'ren," de Conquer murmured.

"I do," she said. "But I beat all of them. Everybody else be keepin' de place so clean and neat--de forest and de glacier--I can't find nothin' worth even thinkin' about."

"That's somethin'," said de Conquer. "I always have a head full of stuff. Take this here bamboo. De leaves grow directly from de culms. It stand like trees. And it so quiet and peaceful here. Think I'll spend half a whole day here."

"Maybe that de problem," Pearl muttered.

"What's that?" de Conquer asked.

"Been studyin' de god time and de human time," she said. "Half a god day be fifty human years. We all lives too long on de Mount. And got nothin' left to fix."

De Conquer closed his eyes and smiled to himself. He could watch Pearl just as well with his eyes closed. But Pretty didn't know this yet, because she was still so young. There were lots of things she didn't know about de Conquer.

"Gods live forever," de Conquer said. "That be their nature. And they's plenty left to get fixed. What's on you mind, Pretty? What be troublin' you?" he asked softly.

"Oh, John, bro!" she said, excitedly. "I been watchin' and spyin'. Oh, they's things goin' on real strange!"

"Uh-huh," he murmured, like he was about to fall asleep. But John was watching his sister closely. So it begins, he was thinking. She growin' and wishin' for to test her strength.

"John, don't get mad at me!"

"Hmmmm? Why would I ever get mad at my baby Sister?" he asked.

"Well," she said, "I notice how you and de other gods don't like to spend too much time off de Mount."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2007

    Man, Myth and Magic

    Here's yet another great book of the tales told among different peoples of the world. This book is comparative to Greek mythology, Seigfried, Norse mythology and other 'tales' from around the world. Every culture has stories, tales and fables, and all should be read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2000

    Great book to read!!

    I thought that Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl was a great book. It made me realized how much both the African Americans and also the Native Americans suffered with slavery. I like the way the book was set up in that it was written sort of like an historical book but a myth at the same time. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes myths and historical books:)

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