HAVE I EVER TOLD YOU BLACK LIVES MATTER? by Shani Mahiri King, illustrated by Bobby C. Martin Jr.


illustrated by Bobby C. Martin
Review Copy from Tilbury House Publishers
This book is alive. Reading it - and it must be read out loud - gives your voice meaning and poetry. King's powerful words, combined with Martin's vibrant graphics, feel like a parade, a celebration, an inspiration and an affirmation - Black lives matter. 

King begins, "Black lives matter, in America and in the world. Have I ever told you that?" Over the course of almost fifty pages, one hundred and sixteen Black Americans are named, and some quoted, organized by their contributions and accomplishments. Beginning with the first patriot to die for the dream of American independence, Crispus Attucks, King time travels, rushing right up to today. Ibram Kendi, Coulson Whitehead, Chadwick Boseman, Simone Biles, Kendrick Lamar and Gwen Ifill - names I have never seen in a children's book before, appear alongside Miles Davis, Sojourner Truth, Bessie Smith, Josephine Baker and John Lewis. The torrent of names will have readers reflecting - or Googling - with each page turn. Well chosen (and placed) quotes will give give pause, like these two:

"You can't sit around and wait for somebody to tell you who you are." - Faith Ringgold

"My mother did not raise me to ask for permission to lead." - Ayanna Pressley

King ends his book, "You come from a tradition of excellence and resilience - music that spans generations, continents; literary masterpieces that transcend time. You stand on the shoulders of giants, my wonderful child. I SEE YOU. I HEAR YOU. YOU ARE VALUED. WE ARE VALUED. YOUR LIFE MATTERS. BLACK LIVES MATTER."

116 lives. In an author's note that precedes brief biographies of all 116 people mentioned in HAVE I EVER TOLD YOU BLACK LIVES MATTER?, King lets readers know that the "great collective power in the breadth and richness" of the contributions of the people he chose to name in his book are a "tiny sample of the Black lives who deserve to shine in a book like this." He goes on to share that he thought deeply about the choices - and, by necessity, absences - when choosing the lives to feature here, consulting "scholars and friends," ultimately lifting up the "116 unique arcs through history" that were "self-created from 116 very different starting points." 

Here's looking forward to the day when there are so many biographies of Black Americans on the shelves that authors won't feel compelled to justify the 116, 44 or 40 greats they featured.

The Fierce 44

Popular posts from this blog

Fox + Chick: The Sleepover and Other Stories by Sergio Ruzzier

Be a Tree! by Maria Gianferrari illustrated by Felicita Sala

Reading Levels: A Quick Guide to Determining if a Book Is Right for Your Reader