Fuse 8 n’ Kate: Ashanti to Zulu by Margaret Musgrove, ill. Leo and Diane Dillon
The 2022 ALA YMA Awards were filled with firsts! The first Caldecott Honor or Award winner that’s posthumous! The first LGBTQIA+ Honor and Stonewall co-winner (to say nothing of its National Book Award Honor)! And all this reminded me of a “first” from the past. Who was the first Black African-American winner of the Caldecott to win the Award two years in a row? That’s right, we’re returning to Leo and Diane Dillon. The first Caldecott Award going to a Black man was for Leo and Diane Dillon’s Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears. But the SECOND Award went the very next year to the Dillons’ work on Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions. We consider this second Dillon win and find time to indulge in a discussion on why the Sibert Award should be renamed the Cyborg Award (as is right).
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Great congrats to Sarah Brannen for her Sibert Honor win for Summertime Sleepers: Animals That Estivate! (written by friend of the blog Melissa Stewart). “She’s a Cyborg! Yay!” If you’ll recall, Sarah was the one that created this magnificent piece of original art in which I am a beaver and Kate is a porcupine:
I was absolutely shocked to discover that this book, published in 1976, was not written by a white author. Dr. Margaret Musgrove is Black, taught at Loyola since 1991, and got a Fulbright to study overseas. I looked everywhere online to find more information about her and as I say on the show, “there is NOTHING about her online.” Now look at this note in the front of this book. For 1976, this is nothing short of amazing to include.
Kate noticed right off that on each page a different animal appears. These animals don’t appear to have a tie to the letter. Rather, we suspect that it may have a connection to each tribe. Alas, this is 1976, and explanations in endpapers weren’t really a thing yet.
The bird mentioned in this book but that neither of us could remember is (naturally enough) the honeybird. This is a bird that leads different animals to sources of honey so that it can have a taste.
So this is really interesting. The Dillons had two very different ways of depicting the Masai. In this book they look like this:
And in their other book Who’s In Rabbit’s House they’re depicted in a more stylized but equally distinct manner:
We liked the inclusion of the Tuareg, and how the description of the veiled men says that “The men will peer over their veils, listening with great respect to the poetry and stories of the women.” The choices that Dr. Musgrove made in this book seem so key and systematic that I would love to hear her speak about how she made these selections, tribe by tribe.
Here’s a page that contains recordings of all the Newbery and Caldecott acceptance speeches, courtesy of ALA and ALSC. Click here to hear Leo Dillon’s magnificent New York accent.
As I mention on the show, one element of this book that hasn’t aged as well is the fact that if this book were to made today, it would mention in some way the urbanization of Africa, alongside the longstanding traditions of different tribal areas. This book never dares to touch on that. So if you’re looking for a book that does mention both traditional elements as well as some modernization, check out Atinuke’s remarkable 2021 title Africa, Amazing, Africa. Here’s what I wrote about it for my 31 Days, 31 Lists Older Nonfiction list:
That said, I still feel that it’s wonderful that this book included a map of Africa with the exact locations of each tribe mentioned (even including duplication when the tribes were found in more than one location):
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Filed under: Fuse 8 n' Kate
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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