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Circle Unbroken

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  191 ratings  ·  52 reviews
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 rem
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published March 1st 2004 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
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Average rating 4.20  · 
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 ·  191 ratings  ·  52 reviews

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Linda Lipko
A well-written story of the history of the sweetgrass baskets of South Carolina and Georgia. When a young girl asks her grandmother about the baskets, her grandmother patiently tells to story of long ago slavery when her grandfather was taken from his African home and used as a slave on a plantation. After the Civil War, the grandfather and grandmother marry.

They continue the African tradition of the sweetgrass basket weaving. And thus, the circles contained in the basket are a symbolic measure
Feb 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Text Summary
“And time has come now, child, for you to learn the knot that ties us all together—The circle unbroken.” The words of a grandmother to her granddaughter unfold in this story about the longstanding African tradition of sweetgrass basket sewing. When the child asks her grandmother how she’s learned to sew, the grandmother takes the child to a place in the past on the coast of West Africa. The child’s “old-timey” grandfather was initiated into manhood by answering the question, “Can you
Summary: A grandmother teaches her granddaughter both the art and history of making sweetgrass basket. The book depicts generation after generation witnessing major historical events that impact the path of African culture in the United States. Circle Unbroken brings to life the customs and hardships that encompass the history surrounding this African art form.

While the content in this book are more suited for older elementary students, Circle Unbroken can bring to life a rich historical accoun
Nov 01, 2017 rated it liked it
I absolutely loved the full page illustrations, and I thought the story was beautiful—a family tradition being passed down for generations. This is a story of endurance in the face of adversity. The tradition of basket weaving is kept— though the ancestors are forcefully removed from their homeland and forced into slavery in America. Despite this the family holds their traditions close and continues to teach the new generations.

I would have given the book 5 stars, if it had not glazed over the
Elizabeth Sharer
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a sweet story about tradition and change. The premise of this story centers around the tradition of basket weaving, with each basket made of unbroken circles, told by the grandmother. It follows a family from their village in Africa to the states where they are slaves. From there, through the civil war and ends with a note for the future. The unbroken circle of the basket symbolizes the unending passing down of this tradition despite the change that is taking place throughout the book. J ...more
Jordan Pierre
This wonderful book is about a grandmother teaching her granddaughter how to sew traditional sweetgrass baskets. The story begins with the grandmother telling stories, going back generations to her old-timey grandfathers village in Africa. She tells her granddaughter that her grandfather learned to weave sweetgrass baskets that could hold the rain. He was stolen away to a slave ship that was headed to America, and he remembered what he learned and passed these memories on to his children. I enjo ...more
Julianna Christy
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This picture book is beautifully illustrated with water color and follows the story of a families heritage and backstory. We see the story start with a grandfather and how he learned to we've a basket so tight that it could hold water, and after he was sold into slavery he taught the skill to his daughter in America. The story shows how to keep a hold of heritage and culture with something as little as weaving a basket. A beautiful story that could be good for a younger elementary school audienc ...more
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Genre: Contemporary Realistic
Grade Level: 3-4

"Circle Unbroken," by Margot Theis Raven is a book that will help to explore different cultures. When teaching about different cultures you could read this book and find the different ways that traditions are passed down through a different part of the world. This is a book that would definitley be handing to have in the classroom for different units that you might teach.
Darci Brown
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: multicultural
I must have this book in my classroom library someday! Such a great book about African culture and history, particularly the Gullah people. Beautiful illustrations and soothing words that could be used in a unit of African culture. You could tie in the basket-weaving by showing videos of it, or if you have visited a place that does those bring one in, or even have the class make their own "baskets" with construction paper. ...more
Jessica Erwin
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Grades- 3-5
Genre: African-Americans Fiction

Circle Unbroken was a short, great, read. I loved reading about how the sewing of sweetgrass baskets were such a huge part in African culture. It warmed my heart to read about how the sweetgrass baskets were much more than just baskets. It is not common that something so simple could mean so much! I would recommend this book to young readers to learn about African culture through a good book. Read to find out what meaning the sweetgrass baskets hold!
Just a Girl Fighting Censorship
And 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-
Just as surely and tightly
as my arms now hold and circle you...

A grandmother tells her granddaughter about the history of the sweetgrass basket. The tale starts in Africa, moves to America through the slave trade, and continues on generation after generation.

Sweetly written, beautifully painted.
Jordan Vinson
Mar 08, 2021 marked it as to-read
Shelves: historical
"Circle Unbroken" is a great story about a grandmother explaining the history of baskets to her granddaughter. She explains how the history goes all the way back to Africa. The illustrations are very beautiful and engaging. The story explains how even through the hardships of slavery, the lessons and ideas such as basket making got taught and passed down to others.
Age Level:6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
Nov 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: children
Good story showing some of the cultural legacy that was brought from Africa and passed on to the present. I didn't deduct anything from my rating (3 stars) but it inaccurately leaves out that Africans themselves were involved in the slave trade, and instead suggests that white people came and abducted people from their villages. ...more
Jessica Simmons
Nov 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was such a cool story. It shows how family traditions and customs are brought down from one generation to the next. There is some fun stuff that you can talk about when you talk about traditions.
Natasha Galbraith
Jul 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Weaving of sweetgrass baskets is a tangible way of showing how ancestral knowledge is passed on from generation to generation. Would have given four/five stars if it weren't for the simplistic depiction of the Civil War. ...more
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love that the author discussed the artistry in Nanking the baskets. She weaved (pun intended) history and art. Talking about slavery is hard, however I liked that she focused on the traditions kept, which I'm sure the slave owners tried so hard to eradicate. Great read. ...more
Renia Mckenzie
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read this to my sister she enjoyed it very much
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful illustrations and lyrical story that speaks of the Atlantic slave trade, cultural transfusion of the diaspora, family and change.
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book about slavery and family traditions. I liked the way this book flipped from past to present. A good classroom library good.
Copyright: 2004
Michelle Akers-dicken
Absolutely beautiful story about the circle of life... or how generations are bound together throughout history.
Myka Ellenwood
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens-lit-18
Genre: Historical Fiction
Grade level: 3-5
I liked this book a lot. It shows the importance of tradition, story telling or experience sharing, and why we must remember where we came from. Life changes constantly and this book exemplifies that while also maintaining the importance of knowing who we are.
Laura Rumohr
Sep 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Circle Unbroken is intended for children k-3. This picture book is about a grandmother who is teaching her granddaughter the art of weaving beautiful sweetgrass baskets. As the young girl is learning, she asked her grandmother how she learned to make baskets. Her grandmother then explained that her ancestors began making baskets in South Africa many years ago. When her "old timey" grandfather was sold into slavery he brought his basket weaving skills with him and taught his family the ar
Margot Theis Raven, in her book Circle Unbroken, tells the story of teaching her granddaughter the art of making sweetgrass baskets while explaining the history of her people. The basket making becomes a metaphor for the African people, their life and culture. Just as the baskets start with a circle that is unbroken so is the history of their people. They started out with a rich life in Africa before they were taken away to a strange new land by the slave traders. They continued the tradition o ...more
Lauren Grogan
Apr 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
While teaching her granddaughter how to weave a basket, the grandmother begins to tell the story of her grandfather, and how he weaved baskets. She tells about how he learned to weave, and his experience as a slave. Even after her grandfather was a slave, he still passed down his knowledge about weaving to his children. This book tells the story of sweetgrass basket weaving of the South Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry, a craft that was brought over with the slaves on slave ships from West Africa ...more
Jul 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Circle Unbroken was selected as a 2005 Children’s Africana Book Award Honor Book for Young Children. It follows the earliest history of basket-weaving from Africans captured from the Windward Coast of West Africa by slave-traders. Their skills have been passed down drom generation to generation, and some of you may be familiar with the sweetgrass “coil” or “Gullah” basket, still found made in the islands off the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia today. It is written in small stories as each g ...more
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
I really liked this book! Although published in 2004, it was a new one for me. I picked it up at the library because the illustrator is E.B. Lewis, and I've been a fan of his since seeing his work in some of my favorite Jacqueline Woodson books: Each Kindness, Coming On Home Soon, and The Other Side. There is something about his illustrations that just captivate me. Maybe it's the soft, gentleness combined with amazing detail. Whatever it is, I just love his work.
Circle Unbroken tells the story
Kayla Kupinski
Dec 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
This story is a Grandmother telling her granddaughter the story of how she learned to sew baskets. The grandmother starts all the way at the beginning during slavery and how tells her granddaughter how it has been passed down generation after generation and that it is now her time to learn.
Circle Unbroken is a beautiful story that shows the power of traditions and customs to hold families together through generations and difficult times. It brings light and awareness to a practice that is not a
Vernon Area Public Library KIDS
A beautiful lesson about the circle of life, told by a grandmother to her young granddaughter.

The child’s family history unfolds as the grandmother teaches her granddaughter the intricate art of sewing sweetgrass baskets. The story begins in Africa, where the child’s ancestor is forcibly taken from his village, and continues in the United States. Each generation teaches the next the art of sewing baskets as historical events occur, ending in the present.

If you ever travel to Charleston, South Ca
Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Why I love it: Wow! This story brought tears to my eyes. The beautiful prose bordering on poetry was enough to impress me. But along with the promise of generations before passing on love in the form of basket weaving as a metaphor for the love that circles around from grand-parents to their grand children was almost too much. There were many levels in this book. The message of love being passed on in forms of craft, arms circling round children, and passing on blessings was unmistakable. The ar ...more
Hannah Grosse
Nov 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was fun to read, though at times it got a little confusing. Raven uses vivid, analogous language to express the true art of basket weaving, as she describes fingers learning to talk or communicate correctly with the basket. I also really liked the heritage aspect, with the grandmother telling the little girl all about her ancestors. The baskets also do a really good job at connecting the different generations. This is a really good story, and one that should be read more often. We seld ...more
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