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LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING by James Weldon Johnson


by James Weldon Johnson & illustrated by Bryan Collier

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-06-054147-7
Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

In his highly iconic reinterpretation of the beloved “Negro National Anthem,” Collier was inspired by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Below the words of the song on each double-paged spread, a loose visual storyline follows a young boy through his day. Readers see him rising; going to school; with his class, visiting the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where a 1963 bombing killed four young girls; laying a wreath at Dr. Martin Luther King’s statue, which faces the church; and singing the words of Johnson’s momentous song. Two intentional unifying visual elements predominate: water (the slave ships of the Middle Passage, the symbolic drinking fountain of the Civil Rights era, a reflecting pool) and the often upraised, lustrous faces of black school children, sometimes profiled in the clouds. A bright blue predominates in intensely hued skies and school uniforms, while Collier’s highly recognizable style incorporates watercolor and collage to meaningful effect. (illustrator’s note, words with music) (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-8)