cover image Maya’s Song

Maya’s Song

Renée Watson, illus. by Bryan Collier. HarperCollins, $19.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-06-287158-9

In allusive biographical poems that focus on their subject’s developing voice, Watson recounts the life of activist and author Maya Angelou (1928–2014), beginning with her St. Louis birth as Marguerite Annie Johnson and ending with her reading at Bill Clinton’s 1993 presidential inauguration. Evocative lines detail Angelou’s time living across the U.S. and Ghana, her five years of silence following the childhood assault that “hurt her body, hurt her soul,” and the gradual development of her voice and love for poetry (“Once you start speaking again,/ ain’t nobody gonna be able to shut you up,” her Momma Annie says). Collier’s richly textured assemblage of collage and watercolor employs light, pattern, and subtle imagery that add depth to every image as Angelou is shown maturing into an adult, working alongside peers in the struggle for freedom (including “Brother Jimmy, Brother Martin”), and writing toward the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Concluding with a close-up image of Angelou and an affirmation (“She alone was enough”), this is a thoughtfully rendered biography of a dazzling figure. A biographical timeline and creators’ notes conclude. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)