Review of When We Say Black Lives Matter

When We Say Black Lives Matter
by Maxine Beneba Clarke; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Candlewick    32 pp.    g
9/21    978-1-5362-2238-8    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5362-2564-8    $16.99

Clarke (The Patchwork Bike, rev. 11/18) pens a love letter from parent to child. The title page depicts a pregnant Black woman with one hand on her belly and the other held by a Black man, presumably the child’s father. The vibrant colors and the positioning of their heads and hands give off a positive and affectionate feeling for the new baby. The poetic text opens with “Little one, / when we say Black Lives Matter, / we’re saying Black people are wonderful-strong.” The images that accompany these lines show the infant in the arms of their parent. As the child grows, the poem continues to define what it means to say “Black Lives Matter,” with action verbs throughout: “…when we call out / when we scream out / when we sing…whisper…sob.” The story ends with the child in cap and gown, preparing for the future. Textured, motion-filled collage art depicts Black lives as full and loving despite the pain inherent in much of Black history. Throughout, Clarke highlights the joys and struggles of what it means to be Black in ways that are affirming for all readers.

From the January/February 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Nicholl Denice Montgomery

Nicholl Denice Montgomery is currently working on a PhD at Boston College in the curriculum and instruction department. Previously, she worked as an English teacher with Boston Public Schools.

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