Book Review - Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans

Author/Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
Publisher: Balzer & Bray (September 27, 2011)
Audience: Fourth Grade and up
Source: Purchased Hardcover; Audiobook
History * Non-fiction * African Americans

Description from GoodReads:
In his Coretta Scott King Award-winning We Are The Ship, artist Kadir Nelson told the story of Negro League baseball. In Heart and Soul, he widens his scope to cover a wide range of African-American history, from centuries of brutal slavery to the Civil Rights era to the presidential election of Barack Obama. Nelson's focus is on African-American women and men who struggled through adversity while somehow maintain their integrity. This beautifully illustrated hardcover with a message for us all.

In March, I had a wonderful opportunity to hear Kadir Nelson speak and he shared about his work on Heart and Soul.  As a huge Kadir Nelson fan, I wanted to read the book right then but I had to wait a little over six months to finally get my hands on a copy and my first viewing was to just admire the amazing illustrations in this book.  

Recently, a twitter friend (@maryannscheuer) recommended the audiobook.  The initial thought that ran through my mind was "Why would you listen to a Kadir Nelson book?!".  Obviously you would want to read it so that you can experience the amazing artwork.  And at some level this is true.  However, when I heard that Debbie Allen was the narrator, I decided to give it a try.  And it was an amazing experience.  Of course, in this case, I would suggest listening to the audio if you had the book in hand or had previously viewed the pictures.

Allen as narrator brought Nelson's text and illustrations alive.  As I listened to the audiobook, I was reminded of the time I had lunch with an elderly African-American woman.  I sat there realizing how significant it was to hear the stories that this woman could tell.  First-hand accounts that would be lost as more of our elders passed on.  Nelson's choice to use this technique to share the story of American History through the eyes of an African American family is brilliant.  

This is one book that will end up on my best books of 2011 list.  I am glad to have it as part of my personal collection and would recommend it for any teacher or librarian for classroom, school, or public libraries.  

To get a greater sense of the book, I suggest checking out either the NPR link or the YouTube link listed below.        

To listen to an interview with Kadir Nelson on NPR, click here.  

To watch video about Nelson's work on this book, click below:

For more information about Kadir Nelson, check out his website
You can follow him on Twitter: @kadirnelson 
On Facebook: