Tag Archives: picture books for the older set

voice of freedom: fannie lou hamer, spirit of the civil rights movement

22747807Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer,  Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (2015).


A remarkable book for a remarkable woman. Just look at that cover! It so beautifully captures her spirit with vivid yet textured collage. Fannie Lou— sunlight, voice, and beacon for the other voting rights activists silhouetted behind her. She wears yellow almost every time she’s pictured throughout this gorgeously-illustrated book.




(click image(s) to enlarge)

VOICE OF FREEDOM. Text copyright © 2015 by Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Ekua Holmes. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.


Each spread is an illustration accompanied by a first person poem telling Fannie’s story from her own (imagined combined with quoted) point of view. Every one will move you.


“My mother taught me years ago that black is beautiful.”


Beginning. 1917. Mississippi. The youngest of twenty children. Her parents, sharecroppers. Soon, her dragging cotton in the fields too. “Sharecropping was just slavery by a gentler name. The same folks still had us, had in chains.” But she had a strong, loving mother who gave her a black doll to help her feel proud of who she was.



“When you read…you know—

and you can help yourself and others.”

Middle. Marriage. Hard work. Motherhood. Fannie Lou adopted two children and then was tricked into an operation to prevent her from having any biologically.

She was introduced to her right to vote, a right not honored by any stretch. Fired. Fired at. Beat up. Still, she sang for freedom and civil rights. Fannie Lou ran for congress. She spoke to student volunteers and to lawmakers. She made a televised speech to the Democratic convention about her experience.

“The only thing they could do was kill me

and it seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit

at a time ever since I could remember.”


End. 1977. Fannie Lou left a legacy of fighting for justice, helping others, and making a difference by being committed and courageous.

This is a book for the older set of picture book readers (and for everyone) to learn about this important story of civil rights, in the details not just the big moments. To get a glimpse into that struggle and to see how any progress ever made is made by people like Fannie Lou. In fits and starts and setbacks and fierce determination, despite powerful opposition, to see small steps accomplished so all benefit.










You can read Hamer’s testimony about being arrested and beaten when trying to register to vote in Mississippi here.

And Candlewick has a brief video about the book, including an appearance from its author here.



Big thanks to Candlewick for images of the book!


bird: picture book for the older set

4417990Bird by Zetta Elliott and Shadra Strickland.


This is a book where the illustrations and text go so perfectly together I assumed it was by an author/illustrator. But no, it’s a beautiful collaboration.



Bird is the title of the book, but not just because it’s the nickname of the main character who narrates it.




bird spread 1

(click image(s) to enlarge)

Bird draws a pigeon outside his window. He and his Uncle Son go the park and feed pigeons. His Uncle Son and Grandfather flew planes in the war, flew like birds. Uncle Son plays Charlie Parker, “the other bird,” in his apartment. The boy watches birds flying from his rooftop and, one important time, his older brother gives him a book of birds.



bird spread 2

“You just remember,

everybody got their somethin’.

And that includes you.”

But there’s also the idea of a bird. Of freedom, of flying.

And even flying away, as in death.

bird spread 3

They boy’s older brother, Marcus, is in trouble. With drugs. He only flies away like a bird after struggle and death.

Bird is a book about drug addiction and losing someone you love and who loved you. But it’s also a book about growing up and, thankfully, hope.

Strickland’s illustrations are apropos. Dark, then light. Layered. Imaginative, then realistic.  Line drawings like the one Bird makes. Watercolors of city scenes.


bird spread 4




“You can fix a broken wing with a splint,

and a bird can fly again,” he said.

“But you can’t fix a broken soul.”

And when you’re lucky enough to get your hands on this book, do take a long look at the spread on which Uncle Son and the narrator discuss their favorite birds. Look for the red specks in the trees, each a cardinal that “looks like a fiery spark blowing through the trees.” Just like a fiery spark of hope in the gloom.


Thanks to Lee and Low Books for images!

shackleton’s journey




shackleton'sjourneyShackleton’s Journey by William Grill.


Calling all adventurers, seafarers, boys and girls who love to draw! Climb aboard the Endurance. It won’t be an easy journey, but a rich one.

Cold, blue, but full of fortitude, comradery, and icy beauty.









Ernest Shackleton wanted to be the first to cross Antarctica. But did you know he also read poetry to his crews to lift their spirits?




This is an account of Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic Journey in 1914, 100 years ago, filled with colored pencil illustrations that capture maps and details, white icy space, and fierce blue treacherous conditions equally well.






69 dogs and 28  crew members were aboard the ship. There was also a stowaway!

My favorites?

Crew member Frank Wild, second in command. (Because: Wild.)

Crew member John Vincent, boatswain and able seaman. (Because: title.)

Dog named Bummer. (Because: name.)





Winter arctic ice proved impossible to break. While the Endurance survived, things were pretty good. The men hunted penguins and remodeled their living quarters. They waited and waited but the next October, their vessel’s fate was grim. Now the crew were camped on ice without the shelter of a ship.






Trips in lifeboats, frostbite, blizzards, one perilous journey by six men to sail to Elephant Island to find help. A trip that in total took two grueling years.






A perfect picture book for any would be historian or adventurer. 




Images via William Grill’s website.

I received a review copy of this book from Flying Eye Books; opinions are my own.