Sunday, December 5, 2010


I am a Christian. A Jesus-loving, Bible reading, hard-praying Christian. I don't talk about it a lot on my blog, well, because this blog is not about my Christianity, it's about books, mostly children's books. And I don't like children's books, in fact I intensely dislike children's books, that are preachy or sappy or moralistic or cutesy, which is how I would describe many Christian children's books. This morning, though, I read a book that I have to review, and that I want to give to all of my Christian friends, and my pastor. Because it's one that every Christian should read. But it's also a book I'd love to give to the fifth grade and sixth grade social studies teachers at my school. Or my high school son's African American literature or history teachers. Or actually just about anyone who loves books or American history or children or Jesus.

THE BEATITUDES: FROM SLAVERY TO CIVIL RIGHTS by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Tim Ladwig, follows the history of Blacks in America through some key events in American history: the Middle Passage of slaves from Africa, the founding of the Black A.M.E. churches, the US Colored Troops who fought to end slavery during the Civil War, the building of Negro Colleges, Marian Anderson on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial , Rosa Parks, Emmett Till, the Freedom Riders, Martin Luther King, Jr. Ruby Bridges, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Barack Obama. The story is narrated, however, by God. Listen to the first page:
"I am the Lord your God.
I was with the Africans who were torn
from the Motherland and cramped in holds of ships
on the Middle Passage from Africa to the Americas.
I heard them chant: Kum ba ya, kum ba ya."

Or the last page:
"I was with your ancestors and I will be with your offspring,
standing on the side of justice.
Even now, I am with the downtrodden
and with those who seek uplift.
I am holy water in the stream of humanity.
Drink, bathe, and be free."

The book begins with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), and then a one page explanation of the role of black religious organizations in the Civil Rights movement. Each two-page spread features a single person or event from the time line in glorious, glorious detailed water color illustrations (I can't even explain how illustrator Tim Ladwig uses light/dark and shadow but it's extraordinary-- he has jumped into my top five favorite illustrators with this book!). Marching across the bottom of each page, incorporated into the illustration, is a beatitude. End notes give a one paragraph biography of each person included in the book.

This is an EXTRAORDINARY book, definitely one that anyone who loves books or American history or children or Jesus will want to own.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for the glowing review, Carol. Although the book is not the usual holiday fare, it truly captures the spirit of Immanuel, God with us. Check out the book trailer:

Carole Boston Weatherford