A substantive and affirming addition to any collection.

An impressive array of names, events, and concepts from Black history are introduced in this alphabet book for early-elementary readers.

From A for anthem (“a banner of song / that wraps us in hope, lets us know we belong”) to Z for zenith (“the top of that mountain King said we would reach”), this picture book is a journey through episodes, ideas, and personalities that represent a wide range of Black experiences. Some spreads celebrate readers themselves, like B for beautiful (“I’m talking to you!”); others celebrate accomplishments, such as E for explore (Matthew Henson, Mae Jemison), or experiences, like G for the Great Migration. The rhyming verses are light on the tongue, making the reading smooth and soothing. The brightly colored, folk art–style illustrations offer vibrant scenes of historical and contemporary Black life, with common people and famous people represented in turn. Whether reading straight through and poring over each page or flipping about to look at the refreshing scenes full of brown and black faces, readers will feel pride and admiration for the resilience and achievements of Black people and a call to participate in the “unfinished…American tale.” Endnotes clarify terms and figures, and a resource list includes child-friendly books, websites, museums, and poems.

A substantive and affirming addition to any collection. (Informational picture book. 6-11)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5235-0749-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020


With powerful art from a bold new talent, this is a probing and sensitive take on a devastating chapter of U.S. history.

“How do you tell a story / that starts in Africa / and ends in horror?”

Alexander uses multiple voices to weave this poem about a teacher who takes on the difficult but necessary task of starting a classroom conversation about slavery. Between the theft of people from the African continent and the sale of people in America, from the ships that brought them and the ocean that swallowed some of them to their uncompensated work and the breakup of families, Alexander introduces objections from the implied listeners (“But you can’t sell people,” “That’s not fair”), despair from the narrating adult, encouragement from the youth, and ultimately an answer to the repeated question about how to tell this story. Rising star Coulter’s mixed-media art elevates the lyrical text with clarity and deep emotion: Using sculpted forms and paintings for the historical figures gives them a unique texture and lifelike fullness, while the charcoal drawings on yellow paper used for the present-day student-teacher interactions invite readers to step inside. Where Coulter combines the two, connecting past with present, the effect is stunning. Both young readers and adults unsure of how to talk about this painful past with children will find valuable insights.

With powerful art from a bold new talent, this is a probing and sensitive take on a devastating chapter of U.S. history. (author’s and illustrator’s notes) (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-316-47312-5

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022



In a word: Wonderful.

A spelling-bee champ welcomes readers to the zesty, awesome world of wording wizardry.

Whether you recite it from A to Z or in reverse, the alphabet’s cool, not to mention the words you can build by combining its letters in myriad ways. Such is the premise of this cheerful book that lists 26 empowering words, from Z to A—Avant-garde’s own initials—each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet (except X, for which extraordinary subs). Each word is a favorite of the teen author, who in 2021 became the first African American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The word list begins and ends with the author’s own names (Zaila, meaning “mighty, powerful,” and Avant-garde, “to be at the forefront”). On each page, the same word appears three to five times, printed in boldfaced type, alongside brief, thought-provoking, upbeat observations. The words cavort spiritedly on the page in hyphenated form (“L-A-U-G-H-T-E-R,” “K-I-N-D-N-E-S-S”), inviting readers to draw their pronunciations out slowly, as if to playfully savor their “feel.” A pithy quotation from luminaries such as Albert Einstein, Sitting Bull, and Shakira accompanies each word. Energetic, bold illustrations featuring dynamic patterns and characters diverse in skin tone, age, and physical ability greatly enliven the book. Readers should be strongly encouraged to create personal word lists and commentaries. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

In a word: Wonderful. (the origins of Zaila’s words of wonder) (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 27, 2023

ISBN: 9780593568934

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023

Close Quickview