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Nina : a story of Nina Simone
2021
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Publishers Weekly Review
Todd's telling shines in this skillfully paced portrait of Eunice Kathleen Waymon (1933--2003)--more widely known by her stage name of Nina Simone--which traces her journey from a piano-playing child in North Carolina to later years as a performer, protest song pioneer, and civil rights activist. In an elegantly told story, Todd interweaves Simone's encounters with racism throughout, eventually paralleling Simone's experiences with concurrent events during the civil rights movement: "But while Nina sang of love, something else stirred in the streets of Philadelphia. A low rumble of anger and fear--the sound of Black people rising, rising, unwilling to accept being treated as less than human." Caldecott Honoree Robinson contributes distinctive, carefully constructed vignettes of Simone rendered in acrylic paint, collage, and digitally in a predominantly earth-toned palette; in one particularly moving series of illustrations, Robinson constructs historical scenes--Black protestors getting hosed by white cops, the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing by the KKK in Birmingham, people gathering at the Washington Monument after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination--beneath or atop the lid of Simone's grand piano. An engaging, affecting, and powerful biography that aptly situates Simone's enduring legacy in musical and social history. Back matter includes more about Simone and a bibliography. Ages 4--8. (Sept.)
School Library Journal Review
Gr 2--6--This book begins with a little girl, Nina Simone, who has a gift and a passion for music, whether gospel, jazz, or classical. As Simone grows up, she begins to notice more inequities and injustices. Her anger grows, and the focus of the book shifts to issues of the civil rights movement and Simone's role within it. Discussions of racism and resistance are undertaken with a skillful hand, not exceeding the tone or maturity level appropriate for young readers. Robinson's jewel-tone artwork is colorful, engaging, and complements Todd's lyrical text, supporting comprehension and revealing additional details about the time. For example, in one of the opening images, the subject's mother is hanging up laundry while chickens peck around baby Nina in a basket. The character's expressive faces add another dimension that will leave kids much to ponder. This is especially notable in a scene between two families who are segregated, where everyone is hurt by this unjust separation. This title would support curricular units on civil rights, biography, theme, and identity. Back matter includes more details about the artist's life and her relationship to the civil rights movement. VERDICT An excellent and magnetic biography, this book is highly recommended in all elementary collections and should be considered for libraries serving older students.--Christina Salazar, Mesquite I.S.D., TX
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