Monday, December 15, 2008

Isaac and the Bah Family Tree

by Adrienne C. Wilson
with illustrations by Benton Rudd
Tate Publishing
Paperback, $9.99
28 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-1-60604-792-7

Book Review by Kam Williams

“There was a tree that stood alone in the Bah family backyard. Thick, brown bark covered the trunk, while the gently swaying branches covered in leaves seemed to laugh from the wind’s playful breeze…
Isaac Bah stood gazing at the tree… ‘Hello, tree! How are you today?’ said Isaac. ’Are you my family tree?’”
-- Excerpted from pages 6 & 8

Genealogy is a sensitive issue for most African-Americans, given the way that black families were torn apart during slavery. Consequently, it can be very awkward indeed for parents trying to figure out exactly how to respond to a youngster’s natural curiosity about his or her roots, when they can only be traced back several generations to somewhere around Emancipation.
Help has arrived in Isaac and the Bah Family Tree, a delightful fairytale by Adrienne C. Wilson sweetly illustrated by Benton Rudd. The book relates the earnest effort of a little boy named Isaac Bah to find his family tree like his friends at school had. However, because he doesn’t quite understand the concept yet, he initially takes the word “tree” literally, and expects to find an answer in the oak, pine and weeping willows he finds in his backyard and a nearby park.
Ultimately, it turns out Isaac isn’t really that far off, for the author cleverly employs tree imagery as a metaphor en route to clearing up the kid’s confusion. For, after finding a photo album in an old “trunk” up in the attic, he enlists his grandfather’s assistance in determining the ancestors and other relatives who make up the “branches” and “leaves” of the Bah family tree.
A touching lesson in lineage and African-American history with a satisfying payoff. Practically the perfect way for black parents to broach the subject of genealogy with inquiring offspring.

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