An American Story

Little, Brown. Jan. 2023. 56p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316473125.
PreS-Gr 3–In lyrical verse, Alexander tells the powerful story of American slavery and African resilience through the eyes of a teacher navigating students through this horrific period in American history. The shifting narrative moves between the teacher’s account and the students’ reactions, with Alexander magnifying the unfolding terror of a people stolen from home and thrust into slavery: “About sly men/ from cold places/ scheming/ and laughing/ on tall ships.../ while people/ shackled below,/ crammed in/ small, hot spaces,/ cry and/ sometimes die.” Coulter’s stunning mixed-media artwork illustrates the unflinching brutality of slavery and the beauty of a resilient people who “hold history in one hand and clench hope in the other.” Classroom scenes are sketched in black against a warm yellow background, with expressive students and teacher working through the difficult lesson. Author and illustrator notes provide further context.
VERDICT An excellent and essential first purchase for all collections; whether for curriculum-building or classroom-sharing, this book is unforgettable.

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