Cover image for Jalani and the lock
Jalani and the lock
Pace, Lorenzo.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : PowerKids Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
44 pages : color illustrations ; 24 cm
In this story based on true events, Jalani, a freed slave, gives the lock that held him in chains to his eldest child as a symbol of his enslavement. Includes information about African Burial Ground Memorial Sculpture in New York City created by Jalani's descendent, Lorenzo Pace.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



Inspired by actual stories he heard about his ancestors, Lorenzo Pace weaves a tale around a lock given to him at his father's funeral. Pace learned that it was the actual lock used to shackle his great-great-grandfather, Steve Pace, when he came to this country as a slave.Jalani and the Lock tells of a young boy's journey from his beloved home in Africa, his abduction to a strange land, his life as a slave, and, finally, his freedom. Though he was free, he never wanted to forget his roots, so he passed the lock on to his children, who passed it on to their children, so they would never forget where they all came from.The full-color illustrations done by the author enhance the tale of Jalani on his journey to freedom.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 3^-5. Pace's picture book tells the history of slavery for young children with a few simple words and big, childlike illustrations. It begins almost like a scary fairy tale. A little boy named Jalani loved to play in the forest. One day a strange man comes and takes him away in a boat to a far-off land, locking him in chains and forcing him to work. Jalani never plays again. After many years, freedom comes, but he keeps his lock, which he passes on to his grandchildren to pass on. Background notes on the last page, which will interest a much older audience, explain that the lock is real. It originally shackled Pace's great-great grandfather, and a bronze replica of it is interred in Pace's African Burial Ground Memorial Sculpture in New York City. The details about the memorial and the burial ground will move children and those who read to them as much as the elemental history of the child torn from home. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Noted sculptor Pace makes a stunning children's book debut. Disarming in its simplicity, his narrative conveys complex themes in a fairy tale structure. "A long time ago in Africa," reads the left-hand page of the first spread, opposite a childlike outline of the continent in orange, clearly labeled, which vibrates against a cherry-red background. The next two spreads continue, "a little boy named Jalani/ loved to play in the forest." Jalani's smiling face dominates his portrait; the forest is a grove of lollipop trees. In these three spreads, Pace introduces the key elements of his story. Like other classic fairy tales, the forest, once a child's magical kingdom, becomes a source of terror; this is the scene where "a strange man came and took him away." Pace marks Jalani's transition into life as a captive in America with a single word, "Locks," paired with the image of a padlock so carefully rendered that it seems to be animated on the page. The compositions depict Jalani's fellow field hands but never his oppressors, and his memories sustain him until he is finally freed. He keeps the lock, however, and hands it down to his eldest son "so they would never forget from where they all came." Based on the biography of Pace's own great-great-grandfather, the volume ends with a photograph of the lock. In his choice to adhere to a child's vocabulary and view of the world, Pace conveys the childlike hope that kept Jalani and his past alive. Ages 8-up. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 2-In 2001, artist Pace (best known for his sculpture Triumph of the Human Spirit, which commemorates an African burial site discovered in New York City's Foley Square), wrote Jalani, the story of his ancestor who was enslaved as a young boy. More than 10 years later, Rosen is now rereleasing the book, along with three new titles on the African American experience. Though fairly light on material and lacking features such as an index and table of contents, these new additions make the political personal, as Pace injects his own experiences and feelings. Dynamic, mixed-media collages add to the kid appeal. Featuring vibrant, childlike images and a rhythmic text, Jalani remains a strong choice. VERDICT Solid, age-appropriate selections for introducing a difficult subject to young readers. © Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.