From Caldecott Honor winner Christian Robinson and acclaimed author Renee Watson, comes the inspiring true story of Florence Mills.
Born to parents who were both former slaves, Florence Mills knew at an early age that she loved to sing, and that her sweet, bird-like voice, resonated with those who heard her. Performing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired everyone from songwriters to playwrights. Yet with all her success, she knew firsthand how prejudice shaped her world and the world of those around her. As a result, Florence chose to support and promote works by her fellow black performers while heralding a call for their civil rights. Featuring a moving text and colorful illustrations, Harlem's Little Blackbird is a timeless story about justice, equality, and the importance of following one's heart and dreams.
A CARTER G. WOODSON ELEMENTARY HONOR BOOK
(awarded by the National Council for the Social Studies, 2013)
Watson (A Place Where Hurricanes Happen) pairs with first-time illustrator Robinson for a subdued but striking telling of the life of Florence Mills, following her journey from "the daughter of former slaves, living in a teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy house" to international stardom as a singer and performer. Robinson's chunky mixed-media collages have a vibrant palette and angularity that nods to Harlem Renaissance artists like Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence, while removing some of the sting from the discrimination Mills was exposed to, even as a child. In a memorable early scene, a young Mills refuses to perform at a whites-only club until her black friends can be snuck in to watch: "If they can't go in there, I'm staying out here!" she insists. Although Watson makes Mills's musical talents clear (an author's note reveals that her "voice was never recorded, and no films of her performances exist"), weight is also given to her generosity, even at the height of her stardom, cementing the idea that the potential for greatness lies within everyone. Ages 3 8. Illustrator's agent: Steven Malk, Writers House.