The legendary 20th-century gospel singer takes center stage in a too-short song of praise.
From her childhood in New Orleans to a move to Chicago as a teen, Nolan’s text tells readers that Mahalia Jackson loved one thing above all others—singing in church. She toured the South, performing in churches rather than nightclubs despite the lure of better pay, and without fail, her “joyful voice lifted people with hope.” A recording contract and radio broadcasts brought a larger audience, and eventually she appeared at Carnegie Hall and sang for world leaders. On the day of the 1963 March on Washington, she sang prior to Dr. King’s speech, although there is no mention of her momentous advice to him. Nolan’s brief text, with unsourced quotations, is more focused on Jackson’s musical drive than on the specifics of her career. The only mention of racism comes in the chronology, a misstep in a book about an African-American performer born in 1911; sadly, there is no note about gospel music. Holyfield’s full-bleed acrylic paintings are richly textured and feature a portrait of Jackson on every double-page spread, her voice raised to the heavens.
A noteworthy life to share but one more stirring in recordings than on these pages. (resources) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)