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Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Angola, 1595

Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Angola, 1595

by Patricia C. McKissack, Pat McKissack
In her first book for the Royal Diaries series, Newberry Honor author Patricia C. McKissack presents the wise Nzingha, caught up in her people's fight against Portuguese slave traders.


In her first book for the Royal Diaries series, Newberry Honor author Patricia C. McKissack presents the wise Nzingha, caught up in her people's fight against Portuguese slave traders.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
This entertaining piece of historical fiction recreates the year 1595 to 1596 in the life of a young African princess destined to become a queen in what is now Angola. Nzingha keeps a diary in Portuguese in order to become familiar with her enemy's ways. This journal traces the year before and including her coming of age at 13. Though she is the first child of the king of Ndongo, her mother was a slave and an outsider, which precludes Nzingha from becoming the heir to her father's kingdom. Her rivalry with her half brother (the "heir apparent"), her budding natural leadership, and her cunning as an ambassador to the Portuguese spin out a fascinating story. A key moment is when she uses one of her guards as a bench so that she is on a level with the seated governor. An epilogue wraps up Nzingha's life of 82 years, whereby she becomes Ngola of Ndongo and later Queen of Matamba, ever defying the Portuguese petitions for slaves. A historical note of life in Africa in 1595, a section on the Ngola family tree, photos, maps, pronunciation guide, and glossary complete this educational book in "The Royal Diaries" series. 2000, Scholastic Inc., Ages 8 to 14, $10.95 and $14.99. Reviewer: Carol Raker Collins
Nzingha was a queen who led her people for many years fighting against the Portuguese colonizers. McKissack—as she says, "always interested in African and African American history"—found a old biography of Nzingha written in Portuguese, and this started her serious research to uncover whatever could be found about this unusual queen. Nzingha herself was educated by a Portuguese priest, so the premise that she kept a diary as a young girl is not so preposterous. Most details of Mbundu history, however, are preserved in oral tradition, in art and rituals, and McKissack researched that as well as the histories written by Portuguese or other Europeans. In the diary Nzingha tells of life in the court of her father, of hunts, intrigue, marriage arrangements, and loving sisters. Nzingha's mother was herself a slave, beloved of the king, Nzingha's father, but always suspect as a foreigner. Nzingha had to bear that burden throughout her life, even when she became queen in 1630. It was highly unusual that a female should be the tribal leader, but her story tells how that came to be so. Since so much of African history is unknown to most of us in the West, even to African Americans, this is an important, rather curious, episode. McKissack tells us about a young woman whose life by any standards was extraordinary. Nzingha's fierce opposition to slavery, and her armed resistance to Portuguese colonization, are directly related to our own history. Millions of people from her homeland were eventually sent to the New World as slaves; these people kept alive what they could of the crafts and language of their heritage. (The photographs and historical note at the end of the diary describe thatconnection.) The pronunciation guide is helpful because the African words are daunting to our eyes. (The Royal Diaries) KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2000, Scholastic, 136p, illus, $10.95. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; July 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 4)
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Nzingha, an Angolan princess in the 16th and 17th centuries, was born in a land in which women were predestined to be subservient to men's whims. Nzingha, however, broke that rule and, following her father's footsteps, became a leader after his death. Through fictionalized diary entries, readers learn that Queen Nzingha is knowledgeable, intelligent, and brave. She is opposed to Portuguese slavery and European ways of life, although she secretly learns the outsiders' language and uses it to her advantage. The diary format will appeal to readers and the author's use of time lines, seasons, and actual place names makes the story believable and interesting. While the ending is too abrupt, this is still a good addition to the series. The maps, photos, glossary, illustrations, and genealogical trees enhance the presentation.-Daniel Mungai, Queens Borough Public Library, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This remarkable book tells the true story of a courageous young princess who grew to be a military leader and hero. Set in 16thcentury Congo and enriched with vivid descriptions of the jungle, the story unfolds through the journal writings of Nzingha, who is 13 and about to be chosen for marriage. Nzingha yearns for the attention of her father, the leader of the Mbundu people, and fervently wishes to join him on a hunt. Nzingha is chastised for her impetuous and spirited ways, but ultimately earns her father's praise. The defining factor of their lives, however, is the constant encroachment of their enemy, the Portuguese. As her father's faith in her grows, Nzingha is entrusted to negotiate with the Portuguese Governor, who offers peace if her people will supply slaves to the Portuguese. She discovers that these slaves are shipped to Brazil, where they are worked often to death. When Nzingha decides to advise her father against this bargain, she is kidnapped. Folks are not what they seem through the twists and exciting turns the story suddenly takes. The journal ends with Nzingha's safe return and marriage, but the epilogue goes on to give a synopsis of her lifelong fight to save her people from slavery and domination. With photos, woodcuts, and maps the reader is able to get a very accurate picture of this leader, who is still honored in present day Angola and Brazil. McKissack (Color Me Dark, p. 637, etc.) has written a stunning and thoroughly researched addition to the Royal Diaries series. (epilogue, historical note, family tree, photos, maps, pronunciation guide, glossary) (Historical fiction. 814)

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Royal Diaries
Product dimensions:
5.51(w) x 7.72(h) x 0.84(d)
750L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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