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African Beginnings
Haskins, James//Benson, Kathleen; African Beginnings. New York: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard, 1998. $18.00, ISBN 0-688-10257-3.

Note: Presents an illustrated introduction to Africa's ancient empires, and includes discussion of African music and dance, art and religion, trade with Europe, and slavery and colonization.

As the first of a seven-part series that explores and celebrates the powerful impact that people of African descent have had on world history, African Beginnings is a good start. The most striking and enjoyable feature of this book are the highly detailed illustrations. In muted colours, Cooper depicts African civilisations at various stages of Africa's history. Complementary text is unobtrusively printed over part of the illustrations. The book focuses primarily on pre-colonial Africa, covering a time of great prosperity and affluence in African societies. This was also the time that spawned great myths and legends. The illustrations indicate this with blurred, misty images. Aspects of African life such as religion, trade, art, and domestic slavery (as compared with Western plantation slavery) are dealt with in tasteful and balanced ways. European colonialists make an appearance toward the end of the book.

In certain ways, this book is neither fish nor fowl. The lovely illustrations, many on two-page spreads, suggest use with young children. The vocabulary and full-text pages suggest upper elementary and middle school use. Yet there is not enough information for older children to do significant research. Teachers, parents, and librarians will have to use their ingenuity and skill to make this book work with both audiences of children. Despite these shortcomings the book is recommended. The illustrations alone make this book a worthwhile purchase.

Copyright © 1998 by Africa Access, all rights reserved. Africa Access permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and Africa Access Review. For any other proposed use, contact AfricaAccess@aol.com

Rating: R Grade: E M Type: Book

Reviewed by: Mark P Snyders, Howard Pim Library, University of Fort Hare

Subject: Africa / History / Black author