Review of Maya’s Song

Maya’s Song Maya’s Song
by Renée Watson ; illus. by Bryan Collier
Primary, Intermediate     Harper/HarperCollins    48 pp.       g
9/22     978-0-06-287158-9     $19.99

In free-verse poems, Watson describes key experiences in Maya Angelou’s life. She highlights influential family members, such as Maya’s brother (a source of strength) and Momma (grandmother and shrewd store owner) as well as ­historical figures such as Malcolm X and Dr. ­Martin Luther King Jr., close friends in her adult life who invite her to speak, write, and work toward the cause of freedom for all. Watson doesn’t shy away from addressing tough topics, including Maya at age seven being attacked by her mother’s boyfriend, which left her mute for years. Collier’s accomplished illustrations have a strong narrative pull. Two spreads are particularly compelling. “Caged In” zooms in on the top half of Maya’s face, enlarged to show eyes full of pain, with a cage and shadow of a bird, while the following spread shows the bottom half of that same face with her mouth encircled by a lotus-like flower and that cage imprisoning her words. Both illustrations are drenched in the blue of sadness that Collier describes in his illustrator’s note. This eloquent picture book is a portrait of a resilient woman with a deep capacity for using words to find hope in the world.

From the November/December 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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