Lift as You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker

S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Jun. 2020. 48p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534406230.
Gr 4-7–Ella Baker (1903–86) was raised by the children of parents who were previously enslaved. From an early age, her parents told her she had the potential to change the world. She learned to listen to others and use what she heard for good. Throughout her life, she committed herself to standing up for human rights, always asking herself and others, “What do I hope to accomplish?” No matter the persecution or struggles she faced, Baker always rose above, lifting others with her as she climbed. This lyrical biography provides insight into the life of a member of the civil rights movement, creating connections between her work and modern times. Fears and obstacles are honestly depicted, as are injustice and violence. Christie’s detailed illustrations are visceral. The artwork shows a Black man being beaten by two white police officers, Black youth imprisoned for peaceful protests, and buses burning after being firebombed. Some prior knowledge of Black American history is required to fully appreciate this book; terms such as emancipation and Negroes are used without explanation or context. Supplemental information detailing the purposes of different organizations Baker was affiliated with, as well as a time line of her life, provides clarity. The messages encouraging all people of color to vote and take their places in the government come through strong and clear.
VERDICT A highly informative picture book biography that captures the determination and strength of an influential civil rights leader and adds to students’ understanding of the civil rights movement.

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