Thursday, June 11, 2009

REVIEW: Let It Shine

Pinkney, A.D.  (2000).  Let It Shine:  Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters.  New York:  Harcourt, Inc.




Oh, that Pinkney family.  One after another, successful children’s authors and illustrators.


A Coretta Scott King Honor book, Let It Shine chronologically shares the stories of ten black woman who have fought for freedom and civil rights throughout American history.  The stories are not so much complete biographical accounts of the women, but rather use child-friendly language to share relevant aspects of their lives.  While the accounts are organized chronologically, but do incorporate some overlap in time and even interaction.


Let It Shine does include some well-known freedom fighters, but it also incorporates many lesser-known women whose stories are important to know.  One of the ways to make this book particularly relevant to current events, is through the account of Shirley Chisholm’s political experiences and run for the Presidency.  Pinkney was wise (lucky?) enough to feature Chisholm’s quote “Someday, somewhere, somehow, someone other than a white male could be President” (p. 95).  Pinkney goes on to include in her conclusion to Chisholm “It proved to everyone else that a little girl from Brooklyn , whose parents could not afford to buy a home, could dare to dream of becoming the number-one tenant of the White House.  Shirley had been right:  America was changing” (p. 104).  Hahaha.  And America kept on changing…preparing for Obama to step into that White House.  Wonderful conversation starter.


Each account shares only a few if any historical dates or events beyond the dates of birth and death, so a teacher would have to provide support over the setting and significant influences of the time (or have students research them in groups).


The illustrations are bright, colorful and often metaphorical.  And while there are not pictures present on every page, enough are distributed throughout the chapters to provide students with breaks and keep them motivated.



Activities to do with the book:


If students were assigned to do reports or presentations on these women, the relevant chapter for that student could be invaluable.  A teacher could also incorporate facts from this book into their history lessons. 


A teacher could draw out the fact that several of these women had to drop out of school as young children and work to help keep their families together (Fannie Lou Hamer is one example).  This fact could help get students to contemplate the evolving expectations and treatments of children throughout history.


Students could examine this book (or Nelson’s We Are the Ship, reviewed previously) for personalized language that helps make information books like these ones seem more engaging and familiar.


This is a great resource to keep on the shelf as a reference book or to assign to students on a chapter-by-chapter basis or as recommended reading.



Favorite Quotes:


“On August 28, 1963, one month before I was born, my father stood on Washington D.C.’s great lawn and listened with rapt attention to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his unforgettable “I Have a Dream” speech.  Just blocks away, in my parents’ tiny apartment in southeast Washington, my pregnant mother watched the history-making even on television.  Mom says I kicked and squirmed inside her belly throughout Dr. King’s powerful speech.  And though I was yet to be born, the March on Washington became my earliest experience with the civil rights movement.  But there would be countless others” (p. ix).


“[Soujourner Truth]’s voice to a fiery boom of truth—her truth…”You say Jesus was a man, so that means God favors men over women.  Where did your Christ come from?” she asked.  Then she summoned her father’s backbone strength and stood tall to answer her own question.  “Jesus came from God and a woman.  Man had nothing to do with him” (pp. 6-7).


“By this time America had slipped into what was called the Great Depression.  Times were hard; there weren’t many jobs.  Formerly rich folks and poor folks, black folks and white folks, stood together in the same unemployment lines” (p. 49).

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