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Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 02/01/2010 Using the Beatitudes of blessings found in the Sermon on the Mount as an underpinning, Weatherford (Becoming Billie Holiday, 2009) highlights the faith that bolstered the African American struggle for freedom and civil rights. Running along the bottom of the pages, the words serve as a refrain to punctuate Ladwig’s elegant watercolors and lend a dreamlike quality to the stirring depictions. The art begins with a portrayal of an anonymous man enduring the Middle Passage, a single beam of light falling across his still-hopeful face, and ends with the much-anticipated inauguration of President Obama. This powerful picture book charts the progress of African Americans in the U.S. in much the same manner as Michelle Cook’s Our Children Can Soar (2009). However, instead of a relay race–style handoff of accomplishments, Weatherford’s text illustrates the spiritual presence in the lives of those making a difference. Whether “ringing the church bells” or “beating the drum for freedom,” the Lord was with them. - Copyright 2010 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 03/01/2010 Gr 1–6— Weatherford uses the Beatitudes (Mathew 5: 3–12 KJV) as backdrop for a powerful, beautifully produced book. In free verse, she relates the story in first person—"I am the Lord your God,"—tracing the African-American journey from slavery through the Civil Rights Movement to the inauguration of Barack Obama. Each page begins, "I was with…" as Weatherford focuses on a particular person (Harriet Tubman, Marian Anderson, Emmett Till, Martin Luther King, Jr.) or an event (slave ships, freedom rides, right-to-vote movement). Verses, short and meaningful, carry forth a poignant message, reinforced by Ladwig's inspired, richly hued, expressive illustrations. The words of the Beatitudes, which are printed in their entirety at the book's beginning, run across the bottoms of the pages in softly colored type, making a constant connection to the pictures. In addition, the artist's choice of perspective is exemplary: angry white hecklers back an image of a hopeful-looking Ruby Bridges; Lincoln looks down on a crowded Mall as Marian Anderson sings to the throngs, and Martin Luther King, Jr., gazing into a reflecting pool, sees the smiling faces of two girls (one black and one white). Regardless of race or religion, this is a book to share with today's children who live in a discordant world too often lacking in kindness and civility.—Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA - Copyright 2010 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.