cover image Praise Song for the Day

Praise Song for the Day

Elizabeth Alexander, illus. by David Diaz. HarperCollins/Tegen, $16.99 (32p) IS

Caldecott Medalist Diaz (Before You Came) teams up with poet and writer Alexander (American Sublime) to create a stunning visual representation of Alexander’s poem, which was commissioned for President Obama’s inauguration. Two characters—a mother in long blue dress and her son in purple—wend through unfolding landscapes that offer abstract representations of ancestors, manual laborers, music makers, farm workers, railroad builders, and more, against full-bleed backdrops of bright orange and soft greens and blues. Paintings depict children and adults in geometric, masklike profile; pointed facial features contrast with full limbs in the foreground, while background patterns suggesting collage and paper-cuttings portray snowflakes, cornstalks, and oval-shaped trees. Reading as though narrated by mother to son, Alexander’s verse speaks of oppression, struggle, courage, and hope. One illustration shows the pair walking through tree brambles toward a distant, glowing city: “We need to find a place where we are safe./ We walk into that which we cannot yet see.” The imagery’s angularity becomes increasingly circular and rounded, culminating in a fiery sun surrounding by uplifted, dancing people. A moving pictorial elegy. Ages 6–10. (Mar.)