Strong Voices: Fifteen American Speeches Worth Knowing

Feb. 2020. 128p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780062572042.
Gr 3-6–From Patrick Henry’s famous “Liberty or Death” speech in 1775 to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s groundbreaking 1995 speech on women’s rights, readers are exposed to pivotal moments in American history. Many are familiar but other lesser-known speeches are included, such as Native American chief Red Jacket’s “We Never Quarrel About Religion,” and Fannie Lou Hamer’s testimony in front of the Democratic National Convention in 1964. The strength of this compilation lies in the fact that each speech is preceded by a brief biography of the speaker and an introduction by Bolden that provides a historical perspective. The publishers explain that all efforts were made to represent the speeches as accurately as possible and with minimal editing on their part. However, some of the speeches were not written down by the speaker at the time the speech was given, so there may have been a slight variance in what listeners recalled. Some of the more recent speeches can be accessed on YouTube. Velasquez’s vibrant oil on watercolor paper art utilizes full-page, realistic images of each speaker delivering their speech. Colorful, bubble-like circles edge the pages, providing visual coherence throughout. A time line at the back places each speech along the 220-year span they represent, along with other important events in America. There is a foreword by the late NPR reporter Cokie Roberts, but the text does not explain who she was, a lost opportunity to recognize her expertise and why she would have been asked to contribute.
VERDICT An important addition to American history collections.

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