Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Review: Coretta Scott

There is so much about this book to like. With poetry by Ntozake Shange and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, this mini biography of Coretta Scott King is direct, simple, and inspirational.

Kadir Nelson's paintings are absolutely luminous. Full of light and emotion, the faces in particular tell a deep and moving story of the life journey of these characters. I was fortunate enough to hear Kadir speak about his work several years ago at a conference and learned that for much of his work, he paints life-size portraits. The figures in his books are always so impactful that there must be some magic in this method because his paintings are always so evocative.

Ntozake Shange's poetry does not disappoint. Deceptively, simple, there are layers of meaning in her carefully crafted words. The book's organization is in short vignettes that capture the various stages of Coretta's life. You can feel the pain and the hope of Coretta and her siblings as they walk the five miles to school each day with the dust of the white children's bus in their faces. Each verse is wonderful in its own way. This is one of my favorites:

over years
learning and freedom
took hold of Coretta's soul
til she knew in her being
that the Good Lord intended freedom
for the Negro.

At the end of the book there is a factual biography of Coretta's life that honors Coretta for the work that she did with her husband, Martin Luther King, and on her own after his death.

This book is a wonderful introduction to one of the great American stories of the 20th century.

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