Friday, July 13, 2012

Heart and Soul

Nelson, Kadir. 2011. Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans. Ill. Kadir Nelson.
     New York: Balzer & Bray. ISBN 9780061730740

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans is an eloquent rendition of the history of America as it pertains to the history of African Americans from the colonial period through the civil rights movement and up to the election of President Obama.  Kadir Nelson's text and illustrations work together to provide a historical and emotional journey for the reader.

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans is written in the voice of an unnamed female narrator giving the nonfiction text the element of friendly conversation.  This narrative style enables the reader to connect with the information on a personal level.  Each chapter of the book details a major historical time period or event that directly effected both America and the lives of African Americans, enabling the reader to create an understanding that the history of one is directly connected to the history of the other. 

Each two page spread contains one magnificent oil painting and one full page of text.  Each oil painting depicts either an important event or African American.  Intermittent two page illustrations are placed throughout the work lending power to the work without the interruption of words.  Kadir Nelson's text is magnified by the strength of the illustrations. 

Following the author's note is a timeline which begins in 1565 with the arrival of African American as slaves on Spanish ships and continues through January 20, 2009 with the inauguration of President Obama.  The text also contains a one page bibliography and a thorough index of subjects.

Coretta Scott King Book Award
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award
Jane Addams Honors Book
Provocative and powerful - Starred review- School Library Journal
Nelson…adds to his notable titles with this powerful view of African American history - Starred review- Booklist
The dramatic oil paintings heighten the dignity of this story - Starred review- Kirkus
Creates a voice that is at once singular and representative - Starred review - Horn Book


Listen to a recording of the author explaining why he wrote the book via

This is a wonderful book to use throughout an American History class.  Use individual chapters that correlate to state standards to enhance textbook reading.

On page 36 of the book is a painting of a freedom quilt.  Have students research freedom quilts.  Then have them create their own out of cloth or construction paper.

Other books about African American history:
Grady, C. 2012. I lay my stitches down: Poems of American Slavery. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books.
Hill, L.C. 2010. Dave the potter: Artist, poet, slave. New York: Little Brown & Co


Hopkinson, D. 1993. Sweet Clara and the freedom quilt. New York: Random House.

Levine, E. 2007. Henry’s freedom box: A true story from the Underground Railroad. New York: Scholastic.
Other books written by Kadir Nelson:
Nelson, Kadir. 2005. He's Got the Whole World in his Hands. New York: Dial
.....2008. We are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. New York: Hyperion.

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