cover image Nina: A Story of Nina Simone

Nina: A Story of Nina Simone

Traci N. Todd, illus. by Christian Robinson. Putnam, $18.99 (56p) ISBN 978-1-5247-3728-3

Todd’s telling shines in this skillfully paced portrait of Eunice Kathleen Waymon (1933–2003)—more widely known by her stage name of Nina Simone—which traces her journey from a piano-playing child in North Carolina to later years as a performer, protest song pioneer, and civil rights activist. In an elegantly told story, Todd interweaves Simone’s encounters with racism throughout, eventually paralleling Simone’s experiences with concurrent events during the civil rights movement: “But while Nina sang of love, something else stirred in the streets of Philadelphia. A low rumble of anger and fear—the sound of Black people rising, rising, unwilling to accept being treated as less than human.” Caldecott Honoree Robinson contributes distinctive, carefully constructed vignettes of Simone rendered in acrylic paint, collage, and digitally in a predominantly earth-toned palette; in one particularly moving series of illustrations, Robinson constructs historical scenes—Black protestors getting hosed by white cops, the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing by the KKK in Birmingham, people gathering at the Washington Monument after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination—beneath or atop the lid of Simone’s grand piano. An engaging, affecting, and powerful biography that aptly situates Simone’s enduring legacy in musical and social history. Back matter includes more about Simone and a bibliography. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)