God Bless the Child

Billie Holiday, Author, Arthur Herzog, Jr., Author, Jr. Herzog, Author Amistad Press $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-028797-9
Diverse selections of poetry celebrate culture and history. In the latest addition to a series of books based on song lyrics, God Bless the Child, the words of the song co-written by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr. and made famous by Lady Day give rise to breathtaking watercolor scenes, many of them wordless spreads, by Jerry Pinkney. In a dedication he credits Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series as his inspiration for a visual narrative about a family's move North in the 1930s; Pinkney begins with a family gathered around the Bible at a time when education for African-Americans was not encouraged (""Them that's got shall get,/ Them that's not shall lose,/ So the Bible said,/ And it still is news""). The children find joy in a dousing at the water pump or chasing a butterfly (""God bless the child/ That's got his own""). Poignant consecutive wordless spreads show the home the family has left behind, then Chicago's elevated train stretching to the horizon; here ""Mama may have,/ Papa may have"" takes on another dimension, as the parents work in factories with a promise of hope. A final image shows their son at school-a dream fulfilled. Repeated viewings reveal an extraordinary level of detail and a visual and narrative movement that echoes the family's journey.
Reviewed on: 01/01/2004
Release date: 12/01/2003
Hardcover - 32 pages - 978-0-06-029487-8
Paperback - 40 pages - 978-0-06-443646-5
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