cover image Magnolia Flower

Magnolia Flower

Zora Neale Hurston and Ibram X. Kendi, illus. by Loveis Wise. HarperCollins, $19.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-309831-2

Kendi (Antiracist Baby) adapts a short story by Hurston (1891–1960) in this visually stunning foray into folklore, as related by a mighty river to a babbling brook. Asked to tell of people in love, the river reminisces about Bentley, a Black man who escaped slavery, and Swift Deer, a Cherokee woman who fled “her own trail of tears.” They marry, living in “a whole village of runaways/... on an island of freedom/ in a vast sea of slavery,” and they have a daughter, Magnolia Flower, who arrives “at the time of the flowers opening.” In Magnolia’s lifetime, war over slavery comes and goes: “Black people walked/ free on the lands of Swift Deer’s ancestors.” Then John, a brown-skinned man who “had many words,” wins a now-grown Magnolia’s heart despite her father’s disapproval, and they take to the river to row away—returning 47 years later. Digital illustrations from Wise (The People Remember) make for a bountiful, nature-centered accompaniment to this romance set against the changing landscape of freedom for Black and Indigenous peoples. A historical note and author’s note contextualize themes of oppression, resistance, and love, as well as Hurston’s expertise in Black folklore. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)