Cover image for In the time of the drums
In the time of the drums
Siegelson, Kim L.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for children, [1999]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 28 cm
Mentu, an American-born slave boy, watches his beloved grandmother, Twi, lead the insurrection at Teakettle Creek of Ibo people arriving from Africa on a slave ship.
Reading Level:
AD 570 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.6 0.5 35270.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 3.5 3 Quiz: 20920.
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Childrens Area-Reference
Clarence Library PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Concord Library PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Frank E. Merriweather Library PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Frank E. Merriweather Library PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Frank E. Merriweather Library PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
Orchard Park Library PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Award Winners
Julia Boyer Reinstein Library PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

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In the Time of the Drums

Author Notes

Kim Siegelson grew up hearing the unforgettable account of Africans walking into the water near Georgia's Sapelo Island, the story upon which In The Time of the Drums is based. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Brian Pinkney ( is the illustrator of many acclaimed books for children, including the Caldecott Honor Books Duke Ellington and The Faithful Friend, among others. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his children and his wife Andrea, with whom he often collaborates on books.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 2^-5, younger for reading aloud. Based on the Gullah legend of a slave rebellion at Ibo's Landing in the Sea Islands, this stirring picture book tells the story from the point of view of an African American child. Mentu is island born and has never known Africa or longed for it, but his beloved grandmother, Twi, is an Ibo conjure woman who remembers the times before. Unlike many who work in the fields, "harvesting what they could not keep," she is not broken by slavery. She teaches Mentu the old stories and songs, teaches him her secrets, and shows him how to beat the ancient rhythms on the goatskin drum between his knees. Then one hot, breathless day, a slave ship arrives with a whole village of Ibo from Benin: the Ibo people hear the island drums and think some magic has brought them home, but when they see the truth of where they are, they refuse to get off the ship. Twi calls to them ("The water can take us home"), and together they walk into the ocean to get home. Mentu grows up strong to pass on what Twi had taught him "through slave time and freedom time and on up to now time." As in the urban contemporary story Max Found Two Sticks (1994), Pinkney's signature colored scratchboard illustrations with swirling circular rhythmic lines show the drums that beat in the story and the connections they make, circles through sky, land, and ocean, and between people. In an afterword, Siegelson traces the legend, which she first heard from her grandmother as a ghost story, and extends it. This handsome picture book will pass it on. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Siegelsons (The Terrible, Wonderful Tellin at Hog Hammock) lyrical retelling of a Gullah legend seems to pulse in time to the goatskin drums of the Sea Islands, the setting for this haunting tale. Young Mentu lives with his African-born grandmother Twi, an Ibo conjure woman. Though Mentu exhibits a strength beyond his years, Twi cautions him to save his energy: Soon it will be your time to be strong-strong, she says. As the two watch the workers in the fields, Twi tells her grandson how slavery has broken them.... The old ways had slowly slipped away and been left behind like sweat drops in a newly plowed row. One day, a ship arrives, its cargo an entire village of Ibo people; from the hold of the ship, they hear the sound of Twi beating her goatskin drums, and think they have returned home. When they see the foreign shores, however, the Ibos sing words familiar to Twi: Say the water brought em cross the passage and it can take em back, fe true, she translates for Mentu. Working her magic, Twi leads the Ibo people into the water, where, legend has it, they walked all the way back to Africa on the bottom of the ocean. Siegelson subtly lays the groundwork for Twis double meaning, as the grandmother builds a sense of history (it takes a mighty strength not to forget). The parting scene shows Mentu teaching his daughter the songs that Twi taught him. Pinkneys (The Faithful Friend) finely etched art dramatically captures the storys simultaneous sadness and hope, contrasting such images as the ships shadowy hold with a narrow opening of sun-filled sky where Twis drumbeats fill the air, and Twi leading the Ibo people into a swirling, yet smooth sea filled with a spectrum of sherbet-colored hues as their chains melt away. At once magical yet chillingly real, this is a thought-provoking and memorable work. Ages 6-9. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-5-A Gullah story brought into beautiful focus by Pinkney's trademark scratchboard-on-oil drawings. Mentu and his grandmother, Twi, are plantation slaves who live on an island off the coast of Georgia. Twi knows some "powerful root magic" and still yearns for her African home. She remembers the stories and the rhythms of the drums, and shares them with Mentu. One day, a ship bearing new slaves arrives in Teakettle Creek, and the island people beat ``ancient rhythms" on their drums announcing the ship's arrival. At first the Ibos think they are back in Africa; when they realize they are not, they refuse to leave the ship. Suddenly, Twi hangs her charm bag on Mentu's neck and begins to run toward the water. Magically, the years slip off her as she beckons to the newcomers. Together, they break away from the slave catchers and disappear under the water. Mentu believes that they are walking home to freedom. This well-told story is unusual and powerful. It raises some interesting questions about the meaning and value of freedom, and of literal interpretation of text. The rhythms hint at Gullah language, but the narrative is clear, accessible, and at the same time poetic. Pinkney's illustrations enhance the power of the tale by being at once realistic and mystical. This thought-provoking story would be a splendid addition to any collection.-Linda Greengrass, Bank Street College Library, New York City (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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