Circle Unbroken

Margot Theis Raven; Pictures by Earl B. Lewis

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Keeping the African heritage alive

As she teaches her granddaughter to sew a traditional sweetgrass basket, a grandmother weaves a story, going back generations to her old-timey grandfather's village in faraway Africa. There, as a boy, he learned to make baskets so tightly woven they could hold the rain. Even after being stolen away to a slave ship bound for America, he remembers what he learned and passes these memories on to his children - as they do theirs, so that

. . . when your fingers talk just right
that circle will go out and out again -
past slavery and freedom, old ways and new,
and your basket will hold the past . . .

This powerful picture book, with its rhythmic text and evocative paintings, spirals through time, becoming a triumphant song - a rich story of a craft, a culture, and a people.


Praise for Circle Unbroken

"Gracefully constructed...as intricate as the baskets and the history to which it pays tribute."
-- Starred, Publishers Weekly

"Clear poetic words and exquisite watercolor illustrations depict how the small circular basket holds the big circle of African-American history...Lewis' astonishing pictures combine the panoramas of upheaval and war with portraits of individuals in small circles weaving and passing on their heritage in craft and story." -- Starred, Booklist

"Raven's text masterfully frames several hundred years of African-American history within the picture-book format. Lewis's double-page watercolor images are poignant and perfectly matched to the text and mood." -- School Library Journal

"In solemn Gullah cadences, an old woman passes on to a grandchild centuries of history embodied in the Sea Islands' distinctive sweetgrass baskets...Powerfully evoking the passage of successive generations linked by the ancient skill." -- Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Margot Theis Raven; Pictures by Earl B. Lewis

  • Margot Theis Raven's picture books include Angels in the Dust, which was an IRA Teachers' Choice. She lives in Charleston, South Carolina.

    E. B. Lewis's many picture books include Talkin' About Bessie by Nikki Grimes, which received the Coretta Scott King Award. He lives in Folsom, New Jersey.
  • Margot Theis Raven
  • E. B. Lewis



Teacher's Guide


Available Formats and Book Details

Circle Unbroken

Margot Theis Raven; Pictures by Earl B. Lewis

NCSS-CBC Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, NCTE Notable Child. Bks in Lang. A, Booklist Editors' Choice, Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List, IRA Notable Books for a Global Society, South Carolina Children's Book Award Master List
  • Trade Paperback


  • Hardcover