My Haz read this to us at story time. He quickly found the beat within the couplets. Every now and then though, he’d pause and contemplate the seriousness within words and pictures, which depict the typical days of the week for slaves in New Orleans, each day working in anticipation of Sunday. On that last day of the week, they were allowed a brief moment to gather, dance, sing, play music and “forget their cares, their struggles, and their oppression.” The sharp, rigid lines of the figures, the sombre colours, sorrow and hardship portrayed on days 1 through 6, the countdown of days on each page spread, this intensified our own longing for Sunday. And then, when the day came, movement invigorated. Curves, bright colours, music. “Women in gauze, silk, and percale, men in fringe and furry tails shook tambourines and shouted chants as rhythms fuelled a spirited dance.”
Both Forward and Author’s Note are a great overview of the history behind Congo Square, and reading them in the order that they come I think is best, as introduction prior to story and refresher once you’re finished. Weatherford’s words honours the oppressed, those that yearn for freedom, from past and present, those who endure with hope, and the power of community, togetherness, music. Christie’s illustrations enhance her work beautifully. They induce thought, awareness and connect with our emotions. Freedom in Congo Square is one of those powerful picture books that everyone should and must read.