The very first pages set the mood with Tim Ladwig's dark, beautiful watercolor illustrations. The text reads:
"I am the Lord your God.
I was with the Africans who were torn from the Motherland and cramped in holds of ships on the Middle Passage from Africa to the Americas.
I heard them chant: Kum ba ya, kum ba ya."
In lighter colors, across the bottom of the page is imprinted:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
The remainder of the book is written in the same format. This book is written in poetic (non-rhyming) language. Your child will read about those who founded African American churches, Harriet Tubman, the U.S. Colored troops, Booker T. Washington, Mary McLeod Bethune, Marian Anderson, Rosa Parks, the mother of Emmett Till, Martin Luther King Jr.,Ruby Bridges, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Barack Obama.
Throughout the text, the verses of the Beatitudes are written simultaneously.
What I Like: This is a powerfully written book with stirring illustrations by Tim Ladwig. This would be a great resource for teaching African American history, as there are so many significant people mentioned. I could see this book used as a stepping stone for more in depth research on each of the historical figures, and their roles in the civil rights movement.
What I Dislike: I found myself very confused by the application of these events to the Beatitudes. There are a few good applications mixed throughout, but the majority of the historical events just do not seem to fit with the verses they are matched with. For example, were the U.S. Colored Troops hungering and thirsting after righteousness? Perhaps some of them were. Were the "citizens who walked rather than ride buses during the boycott," necessarily peacemakers? I would like to stress that I don't have any problem with this book historically, but as a Christian book, I see some red flags.
Overall Rating: Good
Age Appeal: 9-12
Publisher Info: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2010; ISBN:0802853528 ; Hardcover $16.99
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Special Info: The King James Version is used in this book. Parents may also want to note that death is handled in this book. A mother weeps over the coffin of her son who was lynched. Also, parents who disagree with upholding our President as a spiritual example should note that he is one of the historical figures featured in this book.
If you are interested in finding out more about the author and the other books she has written, you can visit her website.