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Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
Workshop 1 Workshop 2 Workshop 3 Workshop 4 Workshop 5 Workshop 6 Workshop 7 Workshop 8
Workshop 4: Research and Discovery - An Na, Edwidge Danticat, Laurence Yep, and more
Overview
Authors and Literary Works
An Na
Biography
Work
Edwidge Danticat
Biography
Work
Interview
Pam Munoz Ryan
Biography
Work
Walter Dean Myers
Biography
Work
Laurence Yep
Biography
Work
Interview
Key References
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.


Authors and Literary Works
At Her Majesty's Request

"The attack came in the middle of the night." So begins Walter Dean Myers's account of the life of an African princess who, in 1849, watches as her parents are slaughtered by warriors before her eyes. Through research inspired by old letters he found in an antique bookstore in London, Walter Dean Myers tells the true story of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, an African girl who is saved from the warriors by a British naval officer on the very day she was to be sacrificed, after two years in captivity following the double murder. Her fate transformed overnight, she is to be brought up in the court of Queen Victoria. "Myers sets Sarah's story within the context of daily life and culture in England, Britain's attitudes toward Africa and slavery and the growing unrest across the Atlantic that would result in the Civil War," according to Publishers Weekly.

Commander Forbes takes the young girl, whom he and his crew call "Sarah," aboard his ship, the Bonetta. In England, the young girl is presented to Queen Victoria, who is impressed by how quickly she has learned English. Moved by her story, the queen allows her to be raised by Commander Forbes and his family and pays all her expenses. Soon Sarah begins to visit the queen regularly and becomes a playmate for her children. But as she tries to adapt to a new culture and climate, Sarah becomes ill, and the queen sends her back to Africa, to be educated in the British colony of Sierra Leone. Four years later, Queen Victoria calls her back to England. Eventually Sarah marries a fellow African, a businessman and missionary approved by the queen as a suitable mate for this young girl who belongs neither to Africa nor to Britain. Queen Victoria was the godmother to Sarah's first child, who was duly named Victoria, and maintained a relationship with Sarah until Sarah's early death from consumption.

The story of a life lived between continents, Sarah Forbes Bonetta's biography raises questions of identity, race, class, culture, and family. The story is told against the backdrop of the Victorian era in England -- a time of great scientific and intellectual advance, as well as a time when class and social position in England were rigidly defined. Sarah struggles to find a place where she belongs. Myers acknowledges in an epilogue to the book that there are still many things to wonder about her. "It is difficult to sum up her life... She seemed to find a measure of comfort wherever she was, but was destined to be apart from the world in which she lived. Throughout all of her turmoil and triumphs, she was always forgiving in her outlook and gracious in her manner. She remained, always, a princess." Kirkus Reviews says, "This vividly researched biography will enthrall readers, and ranks among Myers's best writing."

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