Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Always Singin': Coretta Scott by Ntozake Shange and Kadir Nelson

Some Southern morning
the moon
sits like an orange
sliver between the treetops.

Coretta and her siblings
walking all
of five miles
to the nearest colored school
in the darkness
with the dew dampening
their feet.

White school bus
leaves a
funnel of dust
on their faces.

Coretta Scott (Amistad/HarperCollins, 2009) begins and ends with a march. In Ntozake Shange's poetic text, we see Coretta Scott and her brother and sisters on their own freedom march--the long, long walk from their home to the colored school where they earn a hard-won education. We see Coretta joining Martin Luther King, Jr., as they begin their long walk together, from their studies in Boston through the Montgomery bus boycott. Then we see the public marches, the march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights, to Birmingham and Chicago, and the historic walk up the Mall to the Lincoln Memorial in the March on Washington, 1963.

Shange's spare but moving text and Kadir Nelson's art, inevitably described as "strong" and "monumental," portray the steel magnolia sweetness and strength of their subject masterfully. Despite an informative historical "Author's Note" appended, however, Coretta Scott is not a junior biography meant for those book report assignments which require a two-page recitation of facts about the subject. Instead, this one is a feeling, listening, visual experience which requires a bit of background knowledge to appreciate, but should join the many powerful picture books--An Apple for Harriet Tubman, My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom (Caldecott Honor Book), to name just a few--which tell so well that part of the American story highlighted during Black History Month.

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  • I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:05 AM  

  • Thank you. It is rewarding to know that you are reading what I'm writing. (Writing can be satisfying, but lonely!)

    By Blogger GTC, at 9:11 AM  

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