cover image You So Black

You So Black

Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D., illus. by London Ladd. S&S/Millner, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-166-590034-8

S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D. transmutes her spoken-word poem of the same name into a reflective and rousing picture book celebration of Blackness. Expansive initial lines turn the titular phrase into a series of affirmations, kicking off: “You so Black, when you smile, the stars come out./ You so Black, when you’re born,/ the god come out.” Subsequent “Black is” statements describe the word both via specifics (“brilliant,” “strong”) and by embracing its multiplicity of meanings (“adjective,/ adverb,/ color, /and noun”). Employing a vibrant palette, Ladd’s mixed-media collage depicts dark-complected Black figures—varying ages, body types, hairstyles, and skin tones appear throughout—against saturated, stained glass–like backdrops that include visuals of pyramids and the night sky. On one page, a child in a unicorn shirt holds a star-topped wand (“Black is grace”); another highlights a civil rights demonstration (“Black is tough.../ Black is hard to do!”). It’s a potently messaged poem thoughtfully rendered. Ages 4–8. (Jan.)