Review of R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul 
by Carole Boston Weatherford; illus. by Frank Morrison 
Primary, Intermediate    Atheneum    48 pp.    g 
8/20    978-1-5344-5228-2    $18.99 
e-book ed.  978-1-5344-5229-9    $10.99 

This impressionistic picture-book biography of Aretha Franklin (1942–2018) consists of a series of rhyming couplets following the iconic singer through her life. Weatherford employs a clever and resonant device: each poem has a one-word title that is spelled out just as it is in Franklin’s most famous song, “Respect.” So, “B-L-E-S-S-E-D” introduces a very young Aretha, the pastor’s daughter, as she “says a little prayer each night”; “D-E-B-U-T” sees the fourteen-year-old cutting her first gospel album; ­“G-R-O-O-V-E” shows her “rocking R&B”; ­“P-R-O-U-D” finds her singing at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Naturally, the book culminates in a poem titled “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”: “The Queen of Soul blessed us with a golden legacy. / But she would probably call it, ‘the gift that God gave me…’” The book’s trim size is roughly that of a record album, and illustrator Morrison takes full advantage of its expanse. Rich oil paintings place the singer in a variety of ­venues, from recording studio to civil rights protest to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The arresting title page, referencing the song “Freeway of Love,” shows a pink Cadillac about to drop the pedal and go, go, go. Appended with an author’s note giving specifics about Franklin’s life and with a discography of her biggest hits.

From the July/August 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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