Review of On Her Wings: The Story of Toni Morrison

On Her Wings: The Story of Toni Morrison
by Jerdine Nolen; illus. by James E. Ransome
Primary, Intermediate    Wiseman/Simon    48 pp.    g
9/22    978-1-5344-7852-7    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5344-7853-4    $10.99

This picture-book biography of writer Toni Morrison (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford), by the team behind Freedom Bird (rev. 1/20), pays homage to its renowned subject and the wondrous power of storytelling. In childhood, Morrison was a listener, relishing the stories and music shared by her parents and grandparents. She was also an avid reader and continued to read more and more, “feeding a hunger that would never end.” After attending college and graduate school and a brief teaching career, she began working as an editor in New York, at which time she started to write, publishing many books and winning awards for her stories about the lives of Black people in America. Nolen emphasizes Morrison’s uncanny gift for storytelling (“She could look beyond things as they were and see a greater vision”) and celebrates her not only as a brilliant writer but also as an inspiration to others. The straightforward main narrative is appealingly accompanied by words floating at the tops of pages in a storyteller’s voice (“I’m telling you, that girl was magic”). Ransome’s expressive watercolor and collage illustrations, delivered as mostly double-page spreads, are perfectly matched to the text and especially compelling in conveying a sense of Morrison’s profound legacy. Back matter includes an author’s note, a bibliography, important quotes, and a list of select achievements.

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Pauletta Brown Bracy
Pauletta Brown Bracy is professor of library science at North Carolina Central University. She is chair of the 2015-2017 Coretta Scott King Book Awards committee and serves on the 2017 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards committee.

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