Rise!: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou

Lee & Low. Aug. 2019. 48p. bibliog. chron. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781620145876.
Gr 4-6–Maya Angelou overcame an utterly terrifying childhood experience that left her temporarily mute. Despite these challenging circumstances, she went on to accomplish so much. Yet her success may have had a completely different outcome had she not had the love and support of a few key people who helped her turn fear into courage. The author includes a surprising amount of information in this picture book biography, especially given its sparse, narrative verse. The rich language conveys the emotions Angelou felt at different times in her life, ranging from terror to jubilance. The publisher has suggested the target audience as ages 7-10 and grades 4-6. This distinction is important to note because the story touches on specific events that may require additional explanation from an adult if the child is in that younger age category. For example, on the page that addresses the traumatic rape Angelou endured as a child, Hegedus writes: “One day, Maya, left alone with Mr. Freeman, is anything but free. After a visit to the hospital, Maya calls out Mr. Freeman’s name as the one who hurt her. Mr. Freeman spends only one night in jail. Later, he is found crumpled behind the slaughterhouse. Maya falls silent, scared her voice struck him dead.” The illustrations, done in acrylic and oil on textured paper, are luscious and colorful and expand on the beautifully written text. Back matter includes a time line of Angelou’s life, additional resources, and references.
VERDICT An important and powerful addition to any biography collection.

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