R-E-S-P-E-C-T — Perfect Picture Book Friday

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.

Text ©️Carole Boston Weatherford Illustration ©️Frank Morrison

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.

17 thoughts on “R-E-S-P-E-C-T — Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Patricia Tilton says:

    This book looks like perfection. It is so poetic and I love the opening lines you shared — enough to tease me to pick up a copy! I didn’t know about her activism. Gorgeous cover and illustrations Thanks for sharing!.

  2. Lindsey McDivitt says:

    Oh wow! Carole is the Queen herself! You can trust her to handle the toughest topics so superbly. Thanks for this great review Jilanne! I have to read this book. Nice pairing suggestion too!

  3. Sue Heavenrich says:

    I know I will LOVE this book. R-E-S-P-E-C-T was the mantra we all sang (that and “I will survive”…) I can hear Aretha’s voice in my head.

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