An American Story

An American Story is a captivating and thought-provoking book written by Kwame Alexander and beautifully illustrated by up-and-coming artist Dare Coulter. The book's artwork, which features paintings, photographs of polymer and clay sculptures, and drawings, heightening the impact of the historical narrative. Part of what makes Coulter's illustrations so captivating is the way she brings three-dimensional work into the two-dimensional realm; this amplifies the book's message about the importance of the past in the present, literally bringing the past to life on the page.

The story is narrated by a teacher who expertly guides her students through the history of slavery, skillfully capturing both the terror and the resilience of those who lived through it. Coulter's illustrations — "a combination of spray paint, acrylic paint, charcoal, graphite, ink, and digital painting on wood panel and watercolor paper" — portray the harsh realities of slavery while celebrating the enslaved people's strength and indomitable spirit.

Coulter's approach to art is multi-layered and has a profound impact on the reader. She skillfully uses color palettes to convey emotions and accurately captures documented realities. The darker tones in her art depict the pain and suffering endured during slavery, while brighter hues symbolize hope, perseverance, and the unwavering spirit of the enslaved people. The selection of colors she uses guides readers on a journey that echoes the triumphs and tribulations of this narrative.

Moreover, Coulter's artwork beautifully reflects the richness and diversity of Black culture, an aspect often overlooked in more traditional historical accounts. This inclusion adds depth to the narrative, effectively representing the complexities of American history.

Coulter's masterful use of color and light significantly enhances the impact of her illustrations, elevating them to another level altogether. The interaction between contrasting elements, such as the interplay of dark colors, effectively conveys the emotions and themes explored in the narrative. These visual components guide readers on a journey through the book, from experiencing despair and suffering caused by slavery to glimpses of hope and determination for a future.

The mixed-media artwork stands out for its depth and texture, bringing scenes on the pages to life in a truly remarkable way. Her talent captures the contrast between a painful past and an optimistic future. Through her illustrations, she fearlessly portrays the horrors of slavery while also capturing the spirit of enslaved individuals. Her work serves as a reminder of atrocities while showcasing how human resilience prevails amidst adversity.

The illustrations within this book play a significant role in conveying its message. Coulter's artwork delicately balances depictions of tragedy while instilling within us a sense of strength and optimism that lingers on. The captivating illustrations bring the characters and scenes to life in a way that profoundly impacts readers, making these historical events more relatable. This book will likely spark conversations about resilience and hope as we continue our journey toward comprehending history and striving for justice.

An American Story is a powerful depiction of a grim chapter in American history, skillfully combining verse poetry and art to provide readers with clarity and insight. Coulter's artwork brilliantly complements the text, bringing to life the brutality of a time long past. This picture book is an essential resource that should resonate with readers of all ages, making it accessible to anyone who seeks to understand this interconnected part of our nation's past. The illustrations are masterpieces deserving of recognition by the Caldecott Committee.

[Read The Horn Book Magazine review of An American Story]

Annisha Jeffries

Annisha Jeffries is an experienced librarian with over twenty-seven years of professional experience managing youth services at the Cleveland (OH) Public Library. She has an impressive record in this field. Annisha served on the 2018 Caldecott Award committee and chaired the 2021 Caldecott Award committee. Additionally, she teaches a digital literacy course for Library Juice Academy.

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Tricia Springstubb

Such an incisive review of this beautiful and fearless book!

Posted : Jan 03, 2024 11:16



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