Sunday, February 19, 2012

Heart And Soul. The Story Of America And African Americans

Nelson, Kadir. 2011. HEART AND SOUL. THE STORY OF AMERICA AND AFRICAN AMERICANS. New York: Balzer + Bray. ISBN 978-0061730740 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-12]

Like his award winning book, WE ARE THE SHIP, Kadir Nelson has created another visual and verbal masterpiece. Here, his focus is on the history of African Americans and their contributions to the U.S. from the colonial era through the fight for civil rights. His sweep is epic, with both the proud and shameful moments of history poignantly depicted through the voice of an “Everywoman” narrator looking upon her past along with the nation’s past. The 44 elegant paintings and portraits ground the text in an authentic landscape and feature both the famous and the fictional. The sweep of the twelve chapters is dramatic and powerful, yet accessible to the young reader who is just learning about the struggle for justice and equality faced by an entire people. Helpful backmatter includes an author's note, a timeline, a bibliography, and an index. Kadir Nelson justly received the Coretta Scott King award for this latest masterpiece.

The chapters of HEART AND SOUL lend themselves to dramatic read aloud or readers theater performance, particularly in celebration of Black History Month. If ambitious, incorporate simple costumes and props. This is also an excellent companion to Nelson’s book about the Negro Baseball Leagues, WE ARE THE SHIP. Older readers can contrast the different points of view he uses to tell the two stories. Finally, encourage readers to seek out more works written or illustrated by Kadir Nelson for further stories about significant people and places in African American history.

Other works by Kadir Nelson featuring touchstones in African American history:
WE ARE THE SHIP. ISBN 978-0786808328
HENRY’S FREEDOM BOX (by Ellen Levine). ISBN 978-0439777339
ELLINGTON WAS NOT A STREET (by Ntozake Shange). ISBN 978-0689828843
MOSES (by Carole Boston Weatherford). ISBN 978-0786851751

By Sylvia M. Vardell

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