For National Poetry Month, who better to feature than the marvelous, lyrical picture book author, Carole Boston Weatherford, writing about a woman whose songs are a perfect mix of poetry and heart, Aretha Franklin.
Each couplet in this book is a poem that moves the story forward.
Cradled by the church, rocked by an ebony sea,
Aretha says a little prayer each night on bended knee.
We follow Aretha from her days playing with her siblings, praying, singing together, and then performing solo. And we also see that things weren’t perfect, that her father wasn’t faithful, and that her mother left him with the kids. This painful truth is treated in a sensitive, yet straight forward way.
We also see that her father was a complicated man, that he’s not defined solely by that moment, that he was a preacher and also fought for civil rights. I appreciate the choice to show these additional aspects of his character, so we can see that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. It’s not surprising when Aretha’s first album is gospel. And it’s also not surprising when she gives free concerts during the civil rights movement.
I love this spread created by Frank Morrison. It shows her strong spirit, the light that shone from her heart, and her presence as a source of inspiration.
This is a beautiful book about a humble woman who achieved so much, inspired many, and finally sang at the inauguration of the first Black president of the United States, a thrilling moment in history.
Listen to Aretha Franklin sing A Change Is Gonna Come.
Write an acrostic poem, using the word R-E-S-P-E-C-T as the beginning letters, and having the poem reflect the meaning of the word.
Pair this book with Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song by Andrea Davis Pinkney. How are the two books similar? How are they different?
Title: R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator: Frank Morrison
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020
Ages: K-3rd grade
Themes: biography, music, Black women in history, inspiration
For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.