Man-Man and the Tree of Memories

Man-Man and the Tree of Memories

By Author / Illustrator

Yaba Badoe, illus Joelle Avelino


Representation & Inclusion

Age range(s)



Bloomsbury Publishing PLC








Set in contemporary Notting Hill, Man-man and his friends are swept up in the exuberant preparations for carnival. But his mother is ill and even as he dances, he calls desperately to the Queen of Revels, as old as time to make her well again.Swept away with his best friend Kareem and sharp-tongued sister Panama, to a place in between, the Queen of Revels plunges Man-man into Africa's past and reveals his family's heritage. As they gather around the sacred Tree of Memories, he witnesses many slaves, captives whose pain and anguish and longing is held by the tree. Man-man understands how this is draining his mother and how he must help her back to the freedom stolen from his ancestors

Find out more from author Yaba Badoe & illustrator Joelle Avelino




Man-Man lives with his mother, father and sister in London and is preparing for carnival. He loves dancing and is very excited about carnival. His mother, however, is ill with a mysterious illness that doctors cannot diagnose or cure. Man-Man's grandmother comes from Jamaica to look after her. She warns Man-Man of the dangers of carnival. Will Man-Man listen to her?

Man-Man and the Tree of Memories is a very engaging story, full of magic and colour and tinged with darkness and slightly scary at the same time. It looks at the heritage of a child with mixed Jamaican and Haitian heritage and a history of slavery. Carnival is vividly brought to life through Man-Man's dancing and costumes and the African heritage of his family is explored.

The illustrations for this book by Joelle Avelino are wonderful. They are both joyous and magical and the text is highly illustrated making it an easier read in terms of volume. The full-page spreads of illustration are breathtaking, and the pictures fill the book with a riot of colour.  The historical sequences of slavery are very sensitively handled using silhouettes, which also makes it very powerful.

This is a book to be treasured and enjoyed, full of magic and colour and giving a glimpse of the culture of carnival for families in London.

192 pages / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 9+


Man-Man and the Tree of Memories is a story of dance, magic and liberty. Man-Man and his family are getting ready for the Notting Hill Carnival; a time for the whole family to celebrate and enjoy the wonderful experience of dance and music during the carnival. Everyone is excited and really looking forward to the event, however, Man-Man's mother Trilby has been very sick. Man-Man and his family are desperate for Trilby to return to good health. For Man-Man, whilst he loves the dancing and the magic of carnival, he is desperate for his mother to be well. So in desperation he calls to the Queen of Revels to help his mother's plight. The Queen answers Man-Man's call and he, along with his sister Panama and his best friend Kareem, quickly discover that the Queen of Revels has sent them to a place in between worlds. They are sent back into Africa's past and to the sacred Tree of Memories where Man-Man must discover how the past and his family's ancestral trauma of slavery is impacting on his mother in the present.

Set in the modern day, this book not only explores the beauty and freedom that the Notting Hill carnival represents, it also looks at how the past ancestral trauma of slavery is still deeply ingrained within communities. Man-Man and his family take the reader on a magical journey into the world between worlds to save their mother. Yaba Badoe skilfully creates this magical world in which the Tree of Memories shows the children the fate of their ancestors.

The book is bold and beautiful and has the feeling of carnival energy on every page. This is because of the beautiful, colourful illustrations by Joelle Avelino. Avelino adeptly brings the Queen of Revels's world and the feeling of carnival alive. The illustrations are vibrant and impactful and really enhance the narrative. Man-Man and the Tree of Memories feels very fresh and unique.

192 pages / Reviewed by Julie Broadbent, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 9+


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