Standing in the Need of Prayer: Frank Morrison's 2023 BGHB Picture Book Honor Speech

I’d like to thank the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards Committee. Your vote truly boosted my confidence to move forward. Thanks, y’all.

Working on these projects sometimes pulls from the heart. Dealing with topics that are still raw. Researching images that are so demeaning, horrific, and then having to enlighten the reader, in hopes of them being inspired, can be cumbersome.

I find myself as a conductor, pulling, placing, drafting, drawing, then painting it together for us to have a glimpse of hope to move forward in this thing called life.

[Read Horn Book reviews of the 2023 BGHB Picture Book winners.]

I sometimes wonder, what is the purpose of showing these images? Then I turn on the news. Breaking news, live from those redlined districts. The home of the lack. You know what I mean? Lack of education, the lack of justice, lack of opportunity, the lack to participate in the American dream.

Then I realized the aftermath is the calamity of slavery. The scorched earth still remains. The descendants still dwell in it and on it. That dust never settled. Though generations apart, I am — we are — still bearing the crosses of our ancestors.

Then I realize those responsible adults reading to the students, reading to their children, recognize their authority, their positions. As adults teaching life’s lessons of humanity, respect, morals in the houses and schools, to our children, we can now recognize new words: ­injustice, kindness, compassion. Though the complexity of racism and human rights can be — is debated for centuries and has been debated for centuries — I’m honored to be able to drop my, cast my, paint my vote in this pot, this jambalaya. Though my opinion is — I’m no chef — as plain as salt and pepper, the taste is as strong as right and wrong. I’ll let you guess which box I checked on my ballot.

Be good, be great.

From the January/February 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more on the 2023 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB23. Read more from The Horn Book by and about Frank Morrison.

Frank Morrison

Frank Morrison is the winner of the 2023 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award and received a 2023 Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Award for Picture Book for Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and published by Crown. He is also the winner of the 2021 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and published by Atheneum. He recently illustrated Harlem at Four (Random House Studio/Random, 2023).

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