Sing a Song: How “Lift Every Voice and Sing” Inspired Generations

Nancy Paulsen Bks/Penguin/. Aug. 2019. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525516095.
K-Gr 3–A spirited, stunningly illustrated picture book that expresses the historical significance of James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson’s hymn, which was written in honor of Abraham Lincoln. Lyons imagines a young girl in 1900 and her first encounter with the hymn and her desire to sing it with her “back straight, head high, heart and mouth open.” The narrative follows the girl as she grows and teaches it to her son. With each passing generation, the song continues to inspire pride, hope, and faith for African Americans across the nation. The final pages depict the singing of the hymn at the 2016 dedication of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. An extended author’s note discusses how the song represents Lyon’s family heritage and her desire that this hymn remain a message of hope for future generations. Mallett’s digitally enhanced drawings weave through generations of historical events with vibrant color and bright light, beautifully depicting the faces of those moved by this song that has come to be known as the Black National Anthem.
VERDICT Lovely illustrations and a fresh look at the historical significance of the hymn add a new dimension that will inspire as well as inform young readers

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