The Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl


Book: The Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl

Author: Virginia Hamilton 

Jacket Illustrator: Romare Bearden

Publisher: HarperCollins, republished 1986

ISBN-13: 978-0060221867 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0060221860 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0064401784 Paperback

ISBN-10: 0064401782 Paperback

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 11-14 and up

Rating: *** 3 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Category: Fantasy

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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     Hamilton, VirginiaThe Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl (Published in 1983 by Charlotte Zolotow Books, an imprint of Harper and Row Publishers Inc., 10 E. 53rd St., New York City, NY  10022).  Pretty Pearl is a spirited young African god-child who lives high on a mountaintop in Africa with all the other gods and is eager to show off her powers.  Curious about mankind, she comes down off the mountain with her brother, know-all best god John de Conquer, and sails on a slave ship for America where, disguised as a human, she lives among a band of free blacks who have created their own separate world deep inside a vast forest.  There she sees the suffering of the black people, and feels their sorrow right behind her eyes. Pretty Pearl knows that now is her time to act.  Brother John has given her a magical necklace, a set of rules to follow, and a warning to be careful.

     Why does Pretty Pearl need to be careful?  How can she help the blacks?  And what will happen to her?  Author Virginia Hamilton has combined her vast storehouse of black legend, myth, and folklore, with history to create this fantasy.  Hamilton is a good storyteller.  We enjoyed her two books about the Dies Drear Chronicles. The Planet of Junior Brown was a Newbery Honor Book in 1972.  M.C. Higgins, the Great was the first book ever to win both the John Newbery Medal (1975) and the National Book Award.  Hamilton’s books have won many other awards, including two more Newbery Honor Books, Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush (1983), and In The Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World (1989)

     However, The Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl just didn’t do very much for me.  To be fair, one reviewer wrote, “Virginia Hamilton…tells black history without holding punches — Pretty Pearl tells the tale of a young African goddess following in the footsteps of emancipated slaves in a time of the KKK, confiscations of property, lynchings — but without demonizing white people.”  There is really nothing objectionable in the book, unless one is opposed to reading stories about the African “gods” who supposedly lived on Mt. Highness in Kenya.  Most all of the dialogue is in black dialect that may be difficult for some readers.  I suppose that if I had been from an African-American heritage it might have had more meaning and been of greater interest to me. 

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