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NINA by Alice Brière-Haquet Kirkus Star


Jazz Legend and Civil-Rights Activist Nina Simone

by Alice Brière-Haquet ; illustrated by Bruno Liance ; translated by Julie Cormier

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: Dec. 5th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-58089-827-0
Publisher: Charlesbridge

A biography about the legendary singer told as a lullaby from Simone to her daughter.

With black-and-white illustrations that evoke a dreamy, old-time feel, Simone (appropriately portrayed with an Afro) sings her daughter a lullaby interspersed with the story of her life. At 3, Simone starts piano lessons, connecting the appearance of the piano keys to the oppression of black people in the U.S. Music offers Simone an escape (“Music has no color”), though the fact that the “important men in powdered wigs from past centuries” whose music she plays are all white is addressed only in the illustration. (Here young Simone is also depicted with white hair, which will probably require some assistance from caregivers to unpack.) When 12-year-old Simone gives a church performance, she refuses to play until her mother, who had given up her front-row seat for a white attendee, is reseated in the front row, setting a precedent for her activist future. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is cited as an inspiration (though without the honorific), and a spread with protest signs adds humor with Simone happily pointing to her own sign, which reads, “Young, Gifted, and Black,” a nod to her future song. Though the softly textured illustrations in this French import are sometimes obscure, they are always beautiful.

A good introduction to Simone’s life, from her early love of music to her rise to the status of legend. (Picture book. 4-8)