"Forceful and iconic, the Dillons’ (The Secret River) woodcut-style paintings use gentle colors and strong lines to telegraph scary sequences, but do not dwell on them...The willingness to turn the dark history of the past into literature takes not just talent but courage. McKissack has both."
Starred Review, School Library Journal, August 2011:
"The pictures demonstrate the miracle of superb book illustration: how something that lies flat on the page can convey such depth, texture, and feeling. This sad but powerful tale will not be easily accessible to many kids, but here’s hoping that there are a lot of patient and appreciative adults (teachers, parents, librarians) to introduce them to it."
Starred Review, Booklist, September 1, 2011:
"The dramatic, thickly outlined acrylic-andwatercolor illustrations extend the story’s magical realism and intensify the anguish and grief in the words. Both words and images come together in a conclusion that brings hope, with the promise of freedom"
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2011:
"Sounds of drums and song for each element (Fire is “Kiki Karum Kiki Karum Kiki Karum,” while Water is “Shum Da Da We Da Shum Da Da We Da,” for instance) emphasize the storyteller’s voice in the narrative, inviting listeners to participate and engage. Full-page and border paintings in acrylic and watercolor use strong black lines, almost like woodcut engravings, in deep browns, earth colors and subtle jewel tones against creamy backgrounds...A totally absorbing poetic celebration of loss and redemption."
Starred Review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November 1, 2011:
“McKissak gives her legend-making genuine momentum as well as scope….Stories of the middle passage rarely focus on the pain of those left behind, and this is a creative yet poignant treatment of that grief.”