IMPORTANT PART OF U.S. HISTORY: “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is considered the Black National Anthem, and celebrates the resilient spirit of the African American people and all they have had to overcome.
SONG’S MESSAGE EXTREMELY RELEVANT TODAY: In the author’s words, “Now more than ever, we need hope, love, and faith. We survived slavery. We survived segregation. We can overcome anything together. That’s the message this song passes on.”
STUNNING ILLUSTRATIONS: Keith’s striking artwork is reminiscent of the work of Kadir Nelson.
THE STORY BEHIND THE FAMOUS SONG: While it’s still sung at important events today, many people might not know its history.
IMPORTANCE OF HANDING DOWN TRADITIONS: Throughout the story, the song is lovingly passed down from one generation to the next.
INCLUDES AUTHOR’S NOTE: While the main text is historical fiction inspired by the song’s creation, Kelly includes a note filling in the historical details for readers who want to know more.
* “Tracing the history of Black Americans since 1900 through five generations of one family, this creative book also connects events and cultural shifts with particular lines in the song, underscoring their relevance during certain times. . . . With clarity and warmth, the illustrations sensitively capture the changing characters, emotions, and eras as time passes. . . . Well-structured, original story. . . . Dovetailing nicely with the books that introduce the song itself, this moving picture book celebrates it as a ‘symbol of faith, brilliance, resistance, and resilience.’”—Booklist, starred review
“Lyons delivers the history of a song that has inspired generations of African-Americans to persist and resist in the face of racism and systemic oppression. . . . Vibrant, realistic illustrations and painstaking facial detail. . . . Bold colors lend emotion to scenes of hope and adversity. . . . All the while, each generation passes the lyrics along, and a final page urges readers to ‘keep singing . . . keep on keeping on.’ A heartfelt history of a historic anthem.”—Publishers Weekly
“Lyons writes with rhythmic warmth, weaving the lyrics into her story. . . . Mallett's artwork charmingly illumines the faces of the singers in the book, revealing their passion and often joy in singing what's become cherished as the African American national anthem. . . . A beautiful celebration of a song that continues to give life to African Americans.”—Kirkus Reviews
“There are plenty of picture-book editions illustrating James Weldon Johnson’s text of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ but the song’s historical impact is often relegated to an afterword. Lyons makes that impact the focus of this narrative. . . . Lyons deftly weaves the song into the family’s everyday life while also using that quotidian existence to emblematize historical experiences. . . . Her storytelling cadence makes rewarding use of repetition, emphasizing the generational replication and adding a lyrical lilt to the prose. . . . This may open youngsters’ eyes to the personal side of history and prompt some sharing by the adults in their lives.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Lyons's obvious passion for the song she first heard in church as a little girl is mirrored in Keith Mallett's ‘freehand’-drawn and digitally painted illustrations. A distinctive use of light suggests hope and a bright future, while the interactions between his realistically rendered subjects emphasize a strong and supportive community of people. Mallett's art beautifully complements Lyons's sincere, musical text, producing a reverent tribute to this 'symbol of faith, brilliance, resistance, and resilience.'"—Shelf Awareness
“A spirited, stunningly illustrated picture book that expresses the historical significance of James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson’s hymn. . . . An extended author’s note discusses how the song represents Lyon’s family heritage and her desire that this hymn remain a message of hope for future generations. Mallett’s digitally enhanced drawings weave through generations of historical events with vibrant color and bright light, beautifully depicting the faces of those moved by this song. . . . Lovely illustrations and a fresh look at the historical significance of the hymn add a new dimension that will inspire as well as inform young readers.”—School Library Journal
“Through Lyons’s emotion-filled text and Mallett’s rich illustrations, highlighted with bright purples and warm blacks, browns, and golds, readers derive a sense of the collective historical and cultural significance of the anthem, as well as the deeply personal connections that it carries.”—The Horn Book
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