Saturday, February 18, 2012

Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters

Children's Book for Black History Month              Review by Elizabeth Kennedy, Guide

 Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fightersby Andrea Davis Pinkney is geared to upper elementary and middle school age children. Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fightersis organized chronologically and covers the lives of ten women: Sojourner Truth, Biddy Mason, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary McLeod Bethune, Ella Josephine Baker, Dorothy Irene Height, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Shirley Chisholm. The first page of each of the ten biographies faces a stunning oil on canvas portrait of the featured woman, which contains a variety of allegorical images. These images reflect each freedom fighter's accomplishments. The effect of the artwork is so strong that you can't help but want to read the biographies to learn more about each of the amazing women pictured.
I was at first taken aback by the tone of the writing but quickly came to the conclusion that it is one of the major strengths of the book. Since these are biographies, I was expecting writing that was heavy on facts and somewhat academic in tone. Instead, the stories are in the voice of an expert storyteller. The language, the phrasing, and the emotion all come from the oral tradition. While the facts are there, it is the emotions the author elicits that makes you care about them. As I was reading the stories, I almost felt as if a storyteller were standing nearby and telling me about women she knew and understood. As a result, both my attention and emotions were engaged. I will remember what I read. In recognition of the quality of the book's "artistic expression of the African American experience via literature and the graphic arts," it was designated a Coretta Scott King Honor Book in 2001. 

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