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    Freedom Bird by Jerdine Nolen (A Book Review)

    Published by Simon Kids Format: Hardcover
    Source: Simon Kids

    Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Simon Kids in exchange for an honest review.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    I’m in full 2020 review mode pouring over all of the beautiful books I’ve received from publishers and authors so far. Freedom Bird is an absolute gem that left me in happy tears with a full heart.

    In the beginning, readers are introduced to an enslaved family of four: Samuel, Maggie, Millicent and John Wheeler who live on Simon Plenty’s plantation. Very early on, John and Millicent’s parents are sold away leaving them behind.  Although the children were left alone on the plantation, their parents had already sown the seeds of freedom in their children’s minds and hearts. They told them stories of how people could fly away to freedom as free as a bird and they believed it.

    Photo courtesy of Simon Kids

    One day while working out in the field, a huge bird is flying overhead all of the enslaved people. Annoyed of the bird, the white overseer grabs his leather whip and yanks the bird right out of the sky injuring it.  Late in the evening, Millicent and John sneak out in the field and bring the injured into a shed to begin bringing it back to health. They are able to keep the bird hidden for four months until it was discovered.

    Upon discovery from the overseer, Millicent tells the bird to fly away and it does. In a daring escape to freedom Millicent and John follow the bird which leads them West.  In the author’s note you find out this book is a combination of three stories from history meant to all sit alongside each other: Big Jabe, Freedom Bird, and Thunder Rose. Millicent in this book is Millicent MacGruder, mother of Thunder Rose who escaped to freedom and went West.

    Photo courtesy of Simon Kids

    The thing I love most about this story is it filled me with so much comfort and peace knowing enslaved people desired and longed for freedom.  Some history books describe enslaved people as being “happy” which just isn’t true.  The fact that Samuel and Maggie sowed the seeds of freedom in their children’s minds and hearts fills me with so much joy.  I cannot begin to fathom what it must have been like to be enslaved living on a plantation especially as a child without your parents.  Humans are truly resilient beings.

    Freedom Bird is a beautifully written, compelling, (sometimes heartbreaking) yet inspiring story about enslaved Americans of African descent and their desire to be as free as a bird.  Due to a few pages of lengthy text, I’d recommend this one for slightly older readers ages 8 – 9 and up.  Although it can be read aloud with people of all ages.  A great book to add to your home, school or public library for reading during Black History Month or anytime of the year.  Publishes January 14, 2020 from Simon Kids. Ages 5-9 and up.

    Your turn: Have you ever read the other two books mentioned in this post (Big Jabe and Thunder Rose) also written by Jerdine Nolen?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o (A Book Review)

    Sulwe Published by Simon Kids on October 15, 2019
    Format: Hardcover
    Source: Simon Kids
    Buy on Amazon
    five-stars

    Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything. In this stunning debut picture book, actress Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.

    Disclaimer: I received a free advanced copy of Sulwe from the publisher to review and enjoy with our family in exchange for an honest review.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    Having lighter skin has long been a status symbol and is still seen as “superior” by many people around the world. However, thanks to the introduction of affirming songs like Beyonce’s “Brown Skin Girl” and books like Lupita Nyong’o’s forthcoming release Sulwe; Black girls and women everywhere are unapologetically adoring themselves for who they are inside and out.

    Sulwe, which means “star” in the Kenyan language Luo, introduces readers to a young girl named Sulwe who is the darkest person in her family. Sulwe wished she had light skin like her sister Mich who is the color of high noon. In an effort to try and lighten her skin, Sulwe uses a big eraser to try and rub off layers of her skin and she only eats the lightest, brightest foods like: bananas, white bread, and crackers. As a last effort, Sulwe decides to turn to God and pray for a miracle. She prays to wake up and have light skin and lots of friends just like her sister. When she wakes up the next morning and sees her prayer wasn’t answered she breaks down and tells her mother everything.

    Her mother gives her sage advice and reassures her she’s beautiful just the way she is. Later that night, Sulwe is visited by a shooting star who takes her on a quest which helps her learn to love and appreciate herself.

    Based on Lupita’s childhood, Sulwe will pull at your heartstrings and make you cheer at the end when Sulwe gains the strength to see the beauty and power in her own dark skin. The book may also spark some excellent conversations about colorism and the pressures women of color face to obtain Eurocentric standards of beauty. In a world where women and young girls still grow up with constant reminders that only light/fair skin is beautiful, I’m so glad books like this exist.

    The overall message of inspiring children to see their own unique beauty is powerful. Sulwe will undoubtedly plant seeds of sufficiency and adequacy in little Black girls’ minds and empower them to proudly say, “I Am Enough.” Publishes October 15, 2019 from Simon Kids, but available for pre-orders now.

    Your turn: Have you ever felt ashamed of your skin color like Sulwe?  Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

    five-stars
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