Zoboi’s poetic retrospective breathes life into Black history narratives and reverently celebrates Black lives.

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THE PEOPLE REMEMBER

A lyrical history of African American life that also explicates the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

Opening with Africans from many ethnic groups being ripped from their homelands in the midst of births, deaths, storytelling, and other daily occurrences, this immaculately illustrated picture book walks through a vast swath of history. This includes the Atlantic slave trade, the plight and escape of enslaved people, emancipation, northern migration, faith journeys, and more, ending with the Movement for Black Lives. Zoboi’s lyrical free verse, with occasional subtle rhymes, always speaks boldly about the lives, trials, and successes of African American people. The refrain the people remember emphasizes how memories are passed down from one generation to the next, be they positive or otherwise. Figures like Mami Wata center Africa and the African diaspora—necessary for explaining the Kwanzaa principles within the narrative. Wise’s humans, somewhat reminiscent of Jacob Lawrence’s, feel big and expansive in proportion to their surroundings, representing the outsized impact African Americans have had on United States history and culture, whether acknowledged or not. Rich, deeply saturated illustrations cover every page and show how integral African Americans have been to the creation and growth of the arts. Extensive backmatter will ground readers in the facts and spark interest for further research. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Zoboi’s poetic retrospective breathes life into Black history narratives and reverently celebrates Black lives. (author's note, timeline, further reading) (Picture book. 7-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-291564-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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An incredible connector text for young readers eager to graduate to weighty conversations about our yesterday, our now, and...

Our Verdict

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE UNDEFEATED

Past and present are quilted together in this innovative overview of black Americans’ triumphs and challenges in the United States.

Alexander’s poetry possesses a straightforward, sophisticated, steady rhythm that, paired with Nelson’s detail-oriented oil paintings, carries readers through generations chronicling “the unforgettable,” “the undeniable,” “the unflappable,” and “the righteous marching ones,” alongside “the unspeakable” events that shape the history of black Americans. The illustrator layers images of black creators, martyrs, athletes, and neighbors onto blank white pages, patterns pages with the bodies of slaves stolen and traded, and extends a memorial to victims of police brutality like Sandra Bland and Michael Brown past the very edges of a double-page spread. Each movement of Alexander’s poem is a tribute to the ingenuity and resilience of black people in the U.S., with textual references to the writings of Gwendolyn Brooks, Martin Luther King Jr., Langston Hughes, and Malcolm X dotting stanzas in explicit recognition and grateful admiration. The book ends with a glossary of the figures acknowledged in the book and an afterword by the author that imprints the refrain “Black. Lives. Matter” into the collective soul of readers, encouraging them, like the cranes present throughout the book, to “keep rising.”

An incredible connector text for young readers eager to graduate to weighty conversations about our yesterday, our now, and our tomorrow. (Picture book/poetry. 6-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-78096-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project.

LUNAR NEW YEAR

From the Celebrate the World series

The Celebrate the World series spotlights Lunar New Year.

This board book blends expository text and first-person-plural narrative, introducing readers to the holiday. Chau’s distinctive, finely textured watercolor paintings add depth, transitioning smoothly from a grand cityscape to the dining room table, from fantasies of the past to dumplings of the present. The text attempts to provide a broad look at the subject, including other names for the celebration, related cosmology, and historical background, as well as a more-personal discussion of traditions and practices. Yet it’s never clear who the narrator is—while the narrative indicates the existence of some consistent, monolithic group who participates in specific rituals of celebration (“Before the new year celebrations begin, we clean our homes—and ourselves!”), the illustrations depict different people in every image. Indeed, observances of Lunar New Year are as diverse as the people who celebrate it, which neither the text nor the images—all of the people appear to be Asian—fully acknowledges. Also unclear is the book’s intended audience. With large blocks of explication on every spread, it is entirely unappealing for the board-book set, and the format may make it equally unattractive to an older, more appropriate audience. Still, readers may appreciate seeing an important celebration warmly and vibrantly portrayed.

Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project. (Board book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3303-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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