Review of What Do You Do with a Voice like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan

What Do You Do with a Voice like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan
by Chris Barton; illus. by Ekua Holmes
Primary, Intermediate    Beach Lane/Simon    48 pp.
9/18    978-1-4814-6561-8    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-6562-5    $10.99

This large book, with its lush, vivid, mixed-media illustrations, makes an artistic statement as bold as groundbreaking African American congresswoman Barbara Jordan’s own giant voice. Smart page-turns — often prompted by a series of questions and frequently repeating the titular one — lead readers to think about, rather than simply learn about, Jordan’s life. Few specific quotations from her speeches are included here. But those big ideas of hers — of justice, equality, and freedom — appear not only on the book jacket in bright shades of yellow but also in collages throughout the volume. One double-page spread shows Jordan playing poker, perhaps in reference to an October 1976 Texas Monthly article that compares her to a “shrewd poker player” deciding how to parlay her vast supply of chips. That she did so to inspire others is Barton’s overriding theme and one that he implies will resonate for many years to come. After reading this book, youngsters will want to hear that strong, determined voice, and in the back matter Barton suggests they listen to her 1974 speech on Nixon’s impeachment, readily available on the internet (although it was not quite the giant-slayer Barton claims it was). An appended timeline and a variety of sources, aimed at differing age ranges, complete the book.

From the November/December 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Betty Carter
Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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