Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyThe carefree existence of narrator Kofi, the 12-year-old son of a West African Ashanti chief, is shattered when the family's slave sells him to a slave trader in 1788. Recaptured after a brief escape, Kofi ends up in chains on a slaver bound for Boston. After a harrowing journey, during which most of the captives--children all--and much of the crew die, Kofi and his ailing friend Joseph are included in the bargain when Master Browne buys an English cabin boy's contract for indentured servitude. Taken to Salem, Kofi learns to speak English (and to read, until Browne stops his wife's teaching). The three boys labor from before dawn till after dark six days a week, enduring their Puritan master's floggings and torturous hours of prayer. They run away during the election celebrations, when the ``white men who have money and property vote for a new government to tax them and tell them what to do.'' Pursued by Browne, they are taken in by Paul Cuffe, a historical African American Quaker sea captain, who argues successfully in court for the release of the two slaves to his care. Hansen's ( The Gift-Giver ; Home Boy ) thoughtfully researched and eye-opening story offers a deeply moving, Afrocentric perspective on the brutal inequities of American life in the nation's earliest, perhaps most idealistic years--and now. Ages 10-up. (Jan.)
The ALAN Review - Jeanne M. McGlinnThis novel represents a new direction for Joyce Hansen from the contemporary realistic fiction of The Gift-Giver and Yellow Bird and Me. Here are the memories of Kofi, the twelve-year-old son of a great chief in the Ashanti Kingdom of West Africa, who is treacherously kidnapped and sold to slave traders. Kofi's experiences take on a surreal quality as he encounters shock after shock. From the terror of the Middle Passage to his first experience of snow in the harsh new England winter, Kofi is forced into a disorienting and violent world that negates everything he knows about life and how people should treat each other. Hansen packs in lots of historical and cultural information drawn from two primary sources: the slave narrative of Gustavus Vassa and the biography of Paul Cuffe, a free African American who fought against slavery in Massachusetts in the late eighteenth century. Hansen's story is a fitting addition to a social studies unit.
The ALAN Review - Bonnie O. EricsonBetrayed by his father's servant, 12-seasons-old Kofi is captured by slave traders in 1788. He survives the harrowing journey across the Atlantic only to be sold to a Puritan couple in cold New England. Eventually he runs away with two friends, one a white indentured servant, and is saved by a free African American merchant and sea captain. In an epilogue we learn Kofi never returned to his Ashanti tribe but spent his life helping fugitive slaves and working as a ship's pilot. The Captive is interesting because it brings slavery out of the South and to New England during Puritan times; furthermore, the African American sea captain is an unusual and real historical figure. Readers will experience two very different cultures as they relate to the traumatic changes in Kofi's life. Along with O'Dell's My Name Is Not Angelica, this book is a good choice for individual or group reading by middle school students.
Children's Literature - Deborah Zink RoffinoLike Kunte Kinte, Prince Kofi is an unforgettable character who will change perspectives of the readers forever. Packed with action and adventure, this superbly written story of an African prince taken captive holds lessons from history applicable today. Kofi tells his story in first person. Through the moving narration, readers see the villages, family connections, the capture, the slave ships, and the contrast of kindness and cruelty.
School Library JournalGr 5-8-This novel, inspired by a journal written in the late 1700s, is about the capture of Kofi, a 12-year-old son of an Ashanti chief. The boy is taken and subsequently sold after his father is betrayed and murdered by a trusted family slave. He makes two friends on the trip across the ocean; one is a white indentured servant, the other is another black slave. Once they reach America, they are all sold to a Puritan farmer in Massachusetts. (He is never called a Puritan, however, and children may have difficulty figuring out why the characters go to a long, low building once a week, as it is never referred to as a religious meeting house). Eventually, the boys run away. They are chased onto a ship and discovered by its captain, who agrees to help them. Readers might hope for a description of Kofi's return to Africa, as it is clear from the prologue that he does return, but it is not mentioned again until the epilogue. His life in Africa is presented as both orderly and good; the discussion of a black man's involvement in the selling of others of his race is handled well; and the topic of slavery in New England is one not often discussed. Unfortunately, the sense of passage of time is unbalanced as winter lasts three chapters and spring and summer last two paragraphs, and the story seems to take a long time getting started. Nevertheless, this book may be worth purchasing in support of units on slavery.-Sandra J. Langlais, Newport Public Library, RI
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