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Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters

A Coretta Scott King Honor Book

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Let It Shine cover art

Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters

Harcourt
I first saw this book in a local bookstore. I was attracted to it by the wonderful stylized cover portrait by artist Stephen Alcorn. When I picked it up I was intrigued to see that the book was written by Andrea Davis Pinkney, a well-known children's author. I quickly skimmed over the table of contents and the author's introduction and knew I had to make time to read the book.
A frequent topic of discussion among parents and educators is what information should be included in a basic education. Whether you call it cultural literacy, a good liberal arts education, or core knowledge, it seems to me that it is important for children (and adults) to know about the women in this book, the injustices they fought against, and what they accomplished.

Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters is geared to upper elementary and middle school age children. Let It Shine is organized chronologically and covers the lives of ten women: Sojourner Truth, Biddy Mason, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary McLeod Bethune, Ella Josephine Baker, Dorothy Irene Height, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Shirley Chisholm. The first page of each of the ten biographies faces a stunning oil on canvas portrait of the featured woman, which contains a variety of allegorical images. These images reflect each freedom fighter's accomplishments. The effect of the artwork is so strong that you can't help but want to read the biographies to learn more about each of the amazing women pictured.

I was at first taken aback by the tone of the writing but quickly came to the conclusion that it is one of the major strengths of the book. Since these are biographies, I was expecting writing that was heavy on facts and somewhat academic in tone. Instead, the stories are in the voice of an expert storyteller. The language, the phrasing, and the emotion all come from the oral tradition. While the facts are there, it is the emotions the author elicits that makes you care about them. As I was reading the stories, I almost felt as if a storyteller were standing nearby and telling me about women she knew and understood. As a result, both my attention and emotions were engaged. I will remember what I read. In recognition of the quality of the book's "artistic expression of the African American experience via literature and the graphic arts," it was designated a Coretta Scott King Honor Book in 2001.

Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters was published by Harcourt in 2000. It is 120 pages long and just under 9" by 11" in size. (ISBN: 9780152010058)

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