The girl who saved Yesterday

Julius Lester

Book - 2016

Silence, sent on a mysterious mission by the ancient trees that raised her after she was sent away from her village, reconnects the villagers with their forgotten ancestors.

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Location Call Number   Status
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Picture books
[Berkeley] : Creston Books [2016]
Physical Description
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 29 cm
Main Author
Julius Lester (author)
Other Authors
Carl Angel (illustrator)
Review by Booklist Reviews

A young girl named Silence, who has been raised by the ancient trees of the forest, is directed to return to her village in order to save all the Yesterdays. Obediently she complies, although she doesn't quite understand her task. Eventually she climbs a nearby mountain where she uncovers some glowing pink stones that mark the graves of village ancestors. Once the area around the stones is cleaned and restored, the markers release memories that save the Yesterdays. This lyrical fable fairly brims with rich language, and while the story's meaning may take a few readings to become clear, the pleasure of Lester's words makes the journey worthwhile. Angel's lush and colorful spreads beautifully complement the text, setting the story in a small African village. Most impressive are his portrayals of personified trees and the magical memories that emanate from the ancestors and their graves. In addition to providing some excellent examples of vivid prose, this story is sure to spark discussion of cultural customs that honor the dead. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Ailing ancient trees with gray, masklike faces bid a mystical girl, Silence, to go to the human world and "save Yesterday." Silence recalls her life as a foundling, banished by humans and raised in the forest. When she enters her old village, she is greeted with suspicion: "Her dark skin shone as bright as the blackness which surrounds the stars and makes them gleam. She was taller now... but they knew who she was." Upon her arrival, sudden nightfall and brilliant beams of orange light shock the village, and Silence feels the earth sobbing with "the sounds of a heart that was not loved." With help from trees and humans alike, Silence clears the ground and reveals a forgotten past, signified by glowing pink stones. Newbery Honor author Lester brings together folktale elements for a tale of planetary healing, and Angel (Sky High) contributes dramatic, feverish paintings of African animals, thatched huts, and supernatural entities. Silence's story is truncated, with details of her past, the trees' history, and human generations stitched together unevenly. Lester laments a bygone Yesterday, yet his tale's complex meanings feel underdeveloped. Ages 4–9. (May) [Page ]. Copyright 2016 PWxyz LLC

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 2–5—Silence, a girl banished from her village and raised by trees in the forest, is sent on a mysterious quest in this poetic allegory. "'We need you to return to your village and save Yesterday,' Wonderboom, the most ancient of the ancient trees, told her. 'All the Yesterdays,' added Gloomy Night, whose limbs were as thick as sorrow." The trees cannot tell the girl how to save Yesterday, nor do they explain why it must be saved. Readers are told just a bit as ThunderSnow, arriving at the edge of the village, "lay [Silence] gently…at the foot of a tree that had been made ill by Yesterday." Other sickened trees are there, too. In the village center, Silence finds "the mountain which loomed like a memory no one could recall." Unhappy to see her, the villagers leave Silence to endure what seems to be an annual powerful nighttime eruption of vivid light from the mountain. Angel's paintings are bold and often dramatic. The torrid light show, the frightened face of the girl in the midst of it, scenes of her encounter with the angry folks in the village of thatched huts, her subsequent race up the mountain, and the uncovering of the first mysterious glowing round stone are compelling. The large, gnarled trees in the forest and on the mountain, humanized in the text, have enormous, elongated human facial features embedded high in their trunks. The fading light of the morning somehow brings Silence an understanding of what she must do, and her heroic unearthing of the Yesterdays brings the villagers up the long-feared mountain in joyful celebration. There are elusive elements and unanswered questions here and many lush analogies in the prose. In a concluding author's note, Lester notes worldwide cultural practices honoring the dead. "It is important to remember the Ancestors, regardless of whose they are." Some readers will find the vague references confusing and the folksy trees and lighted stones just plain odd. But there's appealing adventure here, and the human/natural world intersection, the courageous quest, and the idea of Yesterday's importance raise thought-provoking questions. VERDICT A fine choice for book discussion in classrooms or library programs.—Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston [Page 80]. (c) Copyright 2016 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Silence, sent on a mysterious mission by the ancient trees that raised her after she was sent away from her village, reconnects the villagers with their forgotten ancestors.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Sumptuous, evocative illustrations complement the story of an outcast girl who is sent by the trees on a mysterious but essential mission to save Yesterday by joining the dead with the living in an act that honors their memory. By the Newbery Honor-winning author of The Hungry Ghosts.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

When the girl, Silence, is sent by the trees to save Yesterday, she doesn't know what her task is, only that it is important. Returning to the village that cast her out, Silence recognizes her purpose: to join the dead with the living in an act that celebrates their memory.